Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sharpen Your Thinking by Learning How to Focus

One of the most important characteristics of successful thinkers is their ability to focus.

How many times has it happened to you that you spent some time and energy thinking about something and you ended up with a bunch of interesting ideas on all other problems except on the one that you had actually been required to think about? This will happen every time unless you manage to maintain a clear focus on the subject that you are thinking about.

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According to a famous expert on creative thinking Dr Edward de Bono, there are two types of focuses: Area Focus and Purpose Focus.

Area Focus
enables us to think broadly about some subject and generate all kinds of ideas connected to that subject. For example, let’s say that my Area Focus is this blog. In that case I will think about different topics that I could write about, ways to draw traffic to my blog, different design templates for my homepage, etc. Or, I could choose my backyard garden as an Area Focus for my thinking. In that case I will think about new plants that I could plant there, different ways to increase shade so I could spend more time lounging there; I will think of different types of garden furniture I could buy; or how to create interesting light effects during the night... Area Focus is particularly useful when we are looking for improvements or planning future steps in the development of some project because it can help us discover new and interesting opportunities.

In Purpose Focus we think about a specific problem that we want to solve or purpose that we wish to achieve. This is the most common type of Focus that we encounter in everyday thinking and therefore it is important to learn how to define it. With Purpose Focus we need to ask ourselves ’How do we..?’ or ’What are the ways to...?’ How can I create some time during the day to do exercise? How can we make our sales process more efficient? What are the ways to create friendlier atmosphere in our restaurant? How can we attract more affluent shoppers into our show room? In what ways could I make my kid keep his room tidy? These are some examples of well defined Purpose Focuses.
Now that you learned how to distinguish between the two types of focuses, it is time to put this knowledge into practice. Here are some tips that might help you focus better while searching for new ideas.

Define your Focus in just one sentence.
Clear your Focus of all unnecessary elements and pay attention to the core of your problem or a specific goal that you want to achieve.

Write your Focus somewhere where you will be able to see it while searching for new ideas.
Sometimes we get distracted during the thinking process and our thoughts go astray. Write your Focus on a piece of paper, whiteboard or a sticky note and paste it on your screen. This way you will constantly be reminded of your Focus and able to keep your mind close to the subject of your thinking.

Set a time limit for your thinking.
You will tend to concentrate better on your Focus when you have limited time to think about some problem. This works particularly well if you are doing group thinking. Sometimes when I brainstorm new ideas with the creative team I set up a precise time limit and we usually manage to generate lots of new ideas before the end of our session.

Discipline yourself.
If you are in a group avoid discussing about things and ideas that have nothing to do with the particular Focus. If you are on your own and looking for the inspiration on Internet, avoid going to pages that are interesting but do not offer answers to the Focus in question.

Never stick to an idea that you personally find interesting but that does not provide right answer to the Focus. Do not try to artificially link it to the Focus, drop it and move on to another idea.

Be prolific.
Write down all the ideas that pop up during thinking process. Do not censure yourself and other members of your team. Gather all ideas in one place so that later you can come back, challenge them and decide which ones have the best potential and should be further developed.

FOR YOUR INSPIRATION:
Edward de Bono is regarded by many as the leading authority in the field of creative thinking, innovation and the direct teaching of thinking as a skill. He is equally renowned for his development of the Six Thinking Hats® technique and the Direct Attention Thinking Tools™ (D.A.T.T.™) framework. If you are anxiuos to learn more about creativethinking, I suggest you visit his website.
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