Saturday, August 18, 2012

Creative, critical thinking is in high demand

A Midwest university professor complained: "We are now focusing more on how to use the tools of communication than we are on how to effectively communicate. ... As a result, we are turning out computer and Internet gurus who can't write and think creatively."

Is writing and thinking creatively important?

Is substance important?

Is critical thinking important?

You bet they are. Making your points to your boss or anyone else requires more than information. It demands the critical thinking that convinces them of your point of view.

I would venture as far as saying that technology has set us back in the field of thinking, trusting gadgets to do some of our thinking rather than using them to enhance our lives.

Critical thinking has never been more important or more challenging. With so much information bombarding us 24/7, sifting through the content to find factual, legitimate and useful material is no small task. Do you believe everything you read or hear? Do you check sources?

Thomas Edison, the genius of invention, had a way of thinking that was both critical and creative. Fortunately, it isn't only a natural-born talent -- it's a habit you can cultivate. Take some lessons from Edison's thinking processes as outlined by Michael Michalko in "Three Lessons in Creativity From Thomas Edison":

Question all assumptions. Examine and challenge conventional wisdom. It is rumored that Edison, when hiring an employee, would invite the person to join him for soup. The person wouldn't get the job if he or she salted the soup before tasting it.

Generate as many ideas as possible. You're more likely to find an idea that works if you test several. Edison is reported to have conducted more than 50,000 experiments before getting the alkaline storage cell battery just right.

Analyze your failures. If an experiment fails, set aside some time to think about what you learned. You can re-examine your efforts if you keep notes on your progress and failures.

Adapt other ideas. Look for ways to take policies, systems or ideas that are already working somewhere else and turn them into something you can use in your own department.

Record all your ideas. Spend time reviewing the ideas and looking for connections. You might find new ways of thinking about something.

These techniques may not make you into Thomas Edison, but they will help you learn to filter out the garbage that clouds your thinking and decision-making. There is plenty of junk floating around out there. I would also recommend these two rules:

Avoid jumping to conclusions and snap judgments. For example, you might be tempted to dismiss a new acquaintance because he wears tennis shoes with his suit. You later discover that he's a brilliant thinker with bad feet. Be sure to collect additional information before drawing conclusions about what you see.

Don't take a "yes or no" approach to data and decisions. Even the most straightforward questions may contain shades of gray. Make a habit of exploring the edges of a problem and looking beyond the obvious alternatives. Is there a middle path or one that includes both options?

Changing your thinking patterns takes practice, but as it becomes habit, you'll notice that you will not second-guess yourself as often and will spend less time worrying about "what if?"

Critical thinking can also help you with creative solutions to problems.

A man had traveled about 6 miles in a taxi when he realized he had left his wallet at home. Knowing he had a problem, he knew he had to take some kind of action. About a block short of his destination, he leaned forward and told the driver: "Stop at this hardware store. I need to buy a flashlight so I can look for the hundred dollar bill that I dropped back here."

When he came out of the hardware store, the taxi was gone.

Mackay's Moral: Critical thinking is critical to success.

by Harvey Mackay Jul 16, 2012

Creative, critical thinking is in high demand

Bonnie and Clyde guns expected to go for more than $100,000 each at auction - CNN

Two guns recovered from the bodies of notorious gangster couple Bonnie and Clyde are expected to fetch more than $100,000 each, an auction official told CNN on Friday.

The Colt .45 was found in Clyde Barrow's waistband, and the .38-caliber Colt was strapped to one of Bonnie Parker's legs on May 23, 1934, when they were killed in an ambush near Gibsland, Louisiana.

"This is one of the finest Bonnie and Clyde collections you will ever see," said Bobby Livingston, vice president of RR Auction in Amherst, New Hampshire. "We expect the guns should sell anywhere between $100,000 and $200,000. But really the sky is the limit for these types of guns."

In January, a submachine gun and shotgun reportedly seized at one of Bonnie and Clyde's hideouts was sold by a Kansas City auction firm for $130,000 and $80,000, respectively, The Joplin Globe reported.

According to the website for RR Auction, the Colt Model 1911 U.S. Army pistol was Barrow's "personal pistol." When police officers searched the car Bonnie and Clyde were driving when they were gunned down, they found many weapons, including nine other Colts, but this was the one he favored, Livingston said.

An extra clip for bullets is included, along with a letter from Frank Hamer Jr., the son of one of the Texas Rangers who killed the notorious couple.

Parker's .38 was taped to her inner thigh, Livingston said.

"My father said that one reason she had the gun taped to the inside of her leg was that, in those days, no gentlemen officer would search a woman where she had it taped," a letter from Hamer states, according to the auction site.

Livingston told CNN that part of Hamer's fee for tracking and killing Bonnie and Clyde was the promise he could take some of their possessions, which he split with other posse members and police officers from Louisiana.

The auction also includes items, including his pocket watch, from the estate of Clyde's sister, Marie Barrow, a release from the auction company said.

Potential bidders can register at the, Livingston said. The live auction, which will be held September 30, will contain more than 100 lots of gangster-related items.

Bonnie and Clyde, whose legend grew larger through the years in song and film, went on a crime spree in 1932 that lasted 21 months during the height of the Great Depression, according to They robbed small-town banks and gas stations throughout the Southwest.

According to the FBI's website, Barrow murdered at least 12 people, but Parker "probably never fired a shot."

By Steve Almasy, CNN Jul 13, 2012

Bonnie and Clyde guns expected to go for more than $100,000 each at auction - CNN

The power of 'we' is central to teamwork

A famous organist was performing a concert on a huge antique organ in front of a large audience. The bellows were hand-pumped by a boy seated behind a screen, unseen by any in the vast auditorium. The first part of the performance went well, and at intermission, the organist took his bows as the listeners applauded enthusiastically. During the break, the musician rested in a side passageway. The boy came out to join him.

"We played well, didn't we, sir?" the boy asked.

The arrogant musician glared at him. "What do you mean, 'we'?"

After the intermission, the organist returned to his seat to begin his next number, but as he pressed his fingers down on the keys, nothing happened. The bellows produced no wind, and not a sound came out.

Then the organist heard a whisper from behind the screen: "Say, mister, now do you know what 'we' means?"

Michael Jordan, in his book "I Can't Accept Not Trying," writes: "There are plenty of teams in every sport that have great players and never win titles. Most of the time, those players aren't willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team. The funny thing is, in the end, their unwillingness to sacrifice only makes individual goals more difficult to achieve. One thing I believe to the fullest is that if you think and achieve as a team, the individual accolades will take care of themselves. Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships."

In Japanese culture, institutionalized conflict is an integral part of management. At Honda, any employee, however junior, can call for a "waigaya" session. The rules are that people lay their cards on the table and speak directly about problems. "Waigaya" legitimizes tension so that learning can take place.

Teamwork begins with the hiring process. Ask interview questions that uncover teamwork skills. Listen for examples of "we" accomplishments, and unless the candidate was a one-person shop, the answers should include clues to a collaborative attitude.

A team approach requires a specific set of skills and behaviors from your workforce. Lone wolves and mavericks may not mesh well within a team environment, so when you're hiring people for a true team, ask these questions:

Why do you want to join this team? Look for people who are interested in the goals of the team, not in achieving success on their own. Find out what the candidate has done in the past and what other work options he or she has considered.

What relevant teamwork experience do you have? Teamwork skills usually carry over across departments or industries. Probe to find out how the person has worked cooperatively with others in pursuit of group goals.

What's most important in working on a team? Teamwork means different things to different workers. Find out what teamwork skills the candidate values -- communication, reaching consensus, cooperative decision-making -- and discuss these in depth.

How have you handled conflicts on previous teams? No team functions without disagreement. You'll find out a lot about your potential teammate by exploring his or her approach to, and experience with, conflict between team members or between the team and other parts of the organization.

Certainly, sports provide easy examples of teamwork in action. Perhaps the most visible example of how much a team values contributions of everyone involved in great success is when the time comes to award championship rings. A few years back, I spearheaded a committee to save the men's golf program at the University of Minnesota. That same year, the team won the NCAA men's golf tournament. The championship ring that they presented to me never comes off my finger.

Mackay's Moral: "We" is a little word that sends a big message.

by Harvey Mackay Jul 9, 2012

The power of 'we' is central to teamwork

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