3 Thinking Techniques to Improve Your Intellectual Horsepower

By J. D. Meier

Here are 3 simple thinking techniques I tend to use each day.  There are some more advanced thinking techniques, but here I’m boiling down to a set of 3 you can use today.  In fact, you can even use them while you read this post.  I’ll go through the thinking techniques in order from simpler to more complex, so you can use them right away.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s think of “thinking” as simply asking and answering questions.  If you want to improve your thinking, ask better questions.  Using these techniques will improve your thinking, by improving your questions.

3 Thinking Techniques
Here are 3 thinking techniques I use fairly regularly:

  • How Might That Be True?
  • PMI
  • Six Thinking Hats

How Might That Be True
When you hear something new, or information that conflicts with what you think you already know, ask yourself, “how might that be true?”  This simple question will open your curiosity.  It can also help you build rapport.  This second point is especially important.  If you’re quick to prove people wrong, people won’t share information with you.  Rather than fight somebody on a point, right from the start, you can help them explore the point.

You don’t have to agree.  Instead, you’re exploring possibility.  Sometimes people have good information or knowledge, but it’s generalized so it appears to be wrong, but there’s kernels of truth or insight.

PMI
I think of PMI as Edward de Bono’s simplified version of Six Thinking Hats.  PMI is simply Plus Points, Minus Points, and Interesting Points.  Basically, all you do is ask yourself:

  1. What are the plus points?
  2. What are the minus points?
  3. What are the interesting points?

This helps you expand your thinking.  Notice how the plus points are first.  This helps find the good first, before shutting it down with minus points.  By looking for interesting points, you find yet another class of insights.  This is where you might find some unexpected “ah-has.”

Three Thinking Techniques to Improve Your Intellectual Horsepower

Source: Thinkstock

Six Thinking Hats
Six Thinking Hats is Edward de Bono’s hard-core thinking technique, and it’s highly effective.  You can use it for yourself or even in a room full of people.  The beauty of the Six Thinking Hats is that you explore multiple perspectives for more complete thinking.  The Six Hats are:

  • White Hat – the facts and figures
  • Red Hat – the emotional view
  • Black Hat – the “devil’s advocate”
  • Yellow Hat – the positive side
  • Green Hat – the creative side
  • Blue Hat – the organizing view

The most effective way I’ve found to turn these into action is to turn the hats into simple questions:

  • What are the facts and figures? (White Hat)
  • What’s your gut reaction?  How do you feel about this? (Red Hat)
  • Why can’t we do this?  What prevents us?  What’s the downside? (Black Hat)
  • How can we do this? (Yellow Hat)
  • What are additional opportunities? (Green Hat)
  • How should we think about this? (what are the metaphors or mental models)  (Blue Hat)

If you’re in a room full of people, rather than fight on topics, you can team up.  Go to the whiteboard, write the list of questions above, and cycle through them as a group.  Instead of tug-of-war, you’re now teaming up on “what are the facts and figures?” …  … “why can’t we do this?” … “how can we do this?” … etc.  This technique helps “black hat critics” step out of character and your reduce the overall energy drain of fighting point by point.  Instead, you improve your overall thinking as a group.

What are your favorite thinking techniques?

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  1. Kwaku Ampomah says:

    Why oh why did Edward de Bono relate the colour Black with the devil – in regards to ‘thinking’, we (Black people) have been trying to change the thought that Black is connected to that which is bad.

    What seems like some good practical and creative ‘thinking’ strategies is unfortunately flawed for me.

    Nevertheless there are positives I can take from this and I will change the Black Hat definition to ‘the advocate’ or ‘the alternative view’ – rather than ‘the devil’s advocate’

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