Tag: thinking

Photos to make you think…

Think No Comments

We love how easy it now is to post a photo – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram….

From 2006  to 2011 we were regularly sharing photos online…then 18 months ago we stopped…

Did you notice?

Did it matter?

Why did we do it? Because the novelty had expired – and it was so easy other ways.

By the way, our presentations are nearly always made up of a series of photos with not much text. At least half of what we present are shots of things we have personally observed….so that is where we have migrated to.

Where are you going with the technology you love?

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Events, dear boy…

Personal productivity, Reflect No Comments

Stuff happens…Events occur…Frustration and confusion arise…

How we make sense of what goes on around us and to us is key, for it guides our actions.

When thinking about events there are two tools we find useful. 

The Deep Think.

The aim is to take an event, such as someone not arriving for a meeting, or set of events that has formed a pattern (such as regular delays in starting team meetings), and to try to think of as many possible reasons for the other persons actions. The aim is to generate a long list of possible hypotheses before deciding on action. As well as considering bleak and competitive reasons (they don’t like me, they got a better offer), there is the chance to think of more charitable ones (something has happened at home, their diary isn’t working properly). Only when your brainstorm has run dry do you try to think about which are the most convincing possibilities (if any!) and what your next step might be…your list of options will be much longer.

The formula: E+R=O (where Events + Response = Outcome).

When something happens our response to it is key.  Having been left at the café or bar for an hour with no message we will be responding: 

in our head (am I in the right place, did I put the right time in my diary);

in our heart (what are they thinking of, hope they are ok); 

with our hands (texting, tweeting, fiddling).

The power of this formula is to focus not on R, but O.  Bear in mind the outcome you want (a relaxing evening, a continued relationship with the other person) and use that to guide your response (make the most of time to sit and think, meditate, people watch, plan your next day).

See here for a bit more.

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Listening with our feelings

Personal productivity, Reflect No Comments

How do we listen?

1) We notice

– But do we notice assumptions as well as information?

– Emotion and energy as well as ideas?

2) We filter to recall (and forget)

– On the basis of thought-out criteria?

– Or is it more haphazard?

3) Also, we can be more aware and mindful if we listen with our feelings.


So here is a ladder of listening…


-Listen behind the emotion (what is not being said)


-Listen to the emotion


-Listen for information, facts and data


-Listen partially or from a distance


-Not listening



Much time is spent at the bottom.

The most effective listening is at the top……

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Take note, taking notes is important: try this

Personal productivity No Comments

Here’s the way we’d suggest you try taking notes:

for any given meeting, keep the notes all on one double-page spread. This means you can easily access what you’re writing during the meeting – the ideas are always right in front of you – and when you return to them later, you won’t have to flick through lots of pages. It IS possible to do this, even for a 3 or 4 hour meeting, and still have better recall than scribing pages of notes.

moleskin notebookwrite small so that you can keep it on one double-page spread

use a blank notebook, not one with lines. The Moleskine large hardback with plain paper is ideal. It’s just slightly smaller than a piece of A4 paper when opened out. It’s not the cheapest but it’s a delight to write in and you won’t be using up so many pages per meeting! 

as you first start writing things down, don’t worry where it goes on the page. Leave things unstructured for a while until it makes sense to begin connecting things. This will be tough for those with personalities that prefer structure from the outset. But try it – it’s all about holding off judging or pre-shaping the ideas.

summarise what you’re hearing and thinking.  Keep each point succinct, write in short phrases, use keywords.

write in your own words.  Only write verbatim if you want to be able to quote something back. 

start to make connectionsbetween the things you are writing.  Put related points near each other if you can, even though they come up at different times in the meeting (that’s the advantage of not writing chronologically down the page). Other things that are linked to each other can be joined up by lines and arrows.

draw images or doodles if that helps you understand, remember or communicate a concept. Not everything has to be in words.

bring in your own ideas where these add to what is being said. Think ahead to what may useful to introduce into the discussion and make a note of those things.

use visual ‘flags’ to differentiate between key concepts, over-arching themes, questions, conclusions, actions. Underlining, bold, caps, asterisks, various shaped bullets, square checkboxes, circles – all of these work to help you see different things when you scan the page.

Practicing using these principles should help with embedding and processing the content you’re generating. At any point in the meeting, you should be able to quickly scan the page in front of you and choose the most effective contribution to make next.

Willing to give it a try?

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Take note, taking notes is important: how could I do it?

Personal productivity No Comments

Our unofficial survey of how people take notes reveals that of those that do, most:

– capture what they hear chronologically, starting at the top of the page
– only use words
– write line-by-line in sentences
– use several pages in their notebooks if the meeting goes on for a while.

In addition, some people find themselves drawn to taking down lots of detail, perhaps even scribing pretty much verbatim what’s being said.

What are some of the alternative ways to take notes?

2. Use the Cornell method.

3. Take some inspiration from Leonardo Da Vinci who produced some of the best notebooks of all time (right).

4. Do what Bill Gates does (supposedly) – split your note-taking page into quadrants and record different kinds of information in each – eg key themes, questions, references and actions.

5. Experiment with our principles for power note taking…which we’ll explain tomorrow.

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What and where is ‘typical’?

Reflect No Comments

Where do you see a typical cross-section of people in a nation?

In friendship groups – too like each other?

At an airport – too biased to those with money?

At the post office?  Probably not.

What about at a supermarket – depends which one?

A motorway service station?  Hmmm possibly…

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DIY scenario planning

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Phil and Ross first worked together using scenario planning techniques in the mid-90s.

In the mid-noughties, they wrote a piece using the Mont Fleur scenarios from South Africa as a metaphor for approaches to improving the NHS.

Now they are doing a couple of scenario-esque  projects where the overall framework from the Mont Fleur project is being used to help groups tease out their fears and hopes – and what might determine those paths.

The template below can be blown up and tried with a group you know. Think of ‘yes/no’ questions around what might happen to the critical external trends or uncertainties in the environment you’re in and then see if you can map the responses to the appropriate Mont Fleur metaphors for where the future may end up.

scenario mont fleur template

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Get onto the front foot: four things to try out with your team (#1 – Direction)

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Our ideas on the Front Foot Organisation have proved extremely popular in recent months.

In working with leadership teams in our ‘classic’ workshop format, we bring the framework to life at four stages.  At the start, we ask people to describe the future state they will be achieving in one or two years. 

This ‘fast forward’ is about being clear on Direction. It builds a shared understanding of what is being aimed for and raises the expectation and  hope for the next stage…Momentum.

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Quick, make your mind up

photos, Think No Comments

Waitrose charitiesWaitrose offers tokens which you can allocate to a charity or local organisation as you leave the store. They share £1000 according to the proportion of total tokens each organisation receives.

Which of these three would you allocate your token to?

For what reasons?

– I might need them or know someone who does
– they look popular already and I should support the one that most people think is important
– they seem under-supported and I want to help the underdog
– they already have enough support and mine won’t make much difference
– I won’t allocate at all as I can’t choose between them (or I’m late and need to rush!).

When people make quick decisions, it can be worth exploring the underlying reasoning.

PS – this accumulative and transparent way of expressing a preference (where you can see the relative support so far) is quite an efficient and possibly fairer way of allocating resources. It ensures that lower profile needs or those with weaker ‘brands’ or ‘voices’ don’t miss out completely. If you did this blind (ie the boxes were opaque), the most popular one could well get a much higher proportion of the votes as people are less informed and hence less inclined to make some of the alternative choices listed above.

PPS – the Hampsire search and rescue has consistently had the most support.

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Letting the hedges grow

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Hedges are a quintessential part of our countryside. They distinctively define many rural landscapes, from Arden’s high hollies to Exmoor’s beech banks. As well as delineating ownership, sub-dividing land into manageable units, sheltering livestock and controlling soil erosion, hedges also offer perfect and varied wildlife habitats. They are alive with insects, birds, mammals. At these ‘safe junctions’, so much essential business of life gets carried out.

The Enclosure Acts of the 18th Century led to 200,000 miles of new hedges. Open fields and common lands were divided into smaller spaces. But over half of this has disappeared since 1950; replaced by much larger, open and uniform spaces. The adverse effect on the well-being of a huge range of plants and animals is extensively documented.

Is there a parallel with the places we work in? The large ‘open plan’ office is now the most common approach to the modern working environment. They’re cheaper than lots of smaller rooms and you can change the layout more easily if circumstances dictate.

But where are the safe junctions? The passing places for unplanned social contact and easy conversation? The cosy spots to be apart? The little available research on the impact of open plan offices seems to point to a pretty hefty list of drawbacks for staff.

Getting the best working environment needs careful thought. Helpfully, there are plenty of ideas on how to balance the competing needs of cost, flexibility, productivity and well-being. Companies like Herman Miller point to design principles such as:

– creating information and resource-rich spaces that get people thinking and help them follow up on ideas and conversations

– making sure sufficient quiet and private places are available

– allowing people more control of their environment, to adapt it to the work they’re doing as that changes over time.

Maybe you should let the different sorts of hedges grow a bit more where you work?

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