Adding Unique Value to Earn a Living
We have the wisdom of teachers all around us. They say that when we’re ready to learn the teacher will appear … We can find those teachers in our family, in our friends, great books by our heroes and by people we’ve heard of. Some of those teachers were in our schools. Others meet us daily on the Internet.
But it’s the ability to know which past decision applies to today’s problem and which tool to reach for when something is broken that builds our own wisdom. Practice and experience with our thinking makes the difference between the wisdom a Yoda and a Skywalker.
It takes 10 critical skills to own an outstanding future — to think and achieve personal wisdom to navigate a life and do the passionate work that we are uniquely suited to do.
What follows is an article I wrote four years ago that you may missed if you recently tuned in to my blog.
Thinking, Fitting In, and Living Well
Thinking cannot be separated from who we are. In the 21st century, the age of intellectual property, the way we think is crucial to having a place in society. What we think and how well we express those thoughts determines where we fit and how well we live. Thoughts, ideas, processes, intangibles — all have value in a world of constant change where knowledge is an adjective, a noun, and an asset — in the form of intellectual property — on balance sheets.
In the largest sense, American society is breaking into two classes:
The first class are people who know how to think. These people realize that most problems are open to examination and creative solution. If a problem appears in the lives of these people, their intellectual training will quickly lead them to a solution or an alternative statement of the problem. These people are the source of the most important product in today’s economy Ã¢â¬â ideas.
The second class, the vast majority of Americans, are people who cannot think for themselves. I call these people “idea consumers” — metaphorically speaking, they wander around in a gigantic open-air mall of facts and ideas. The content of their experience is provided by television, the Internet and other shallow data pools. These people believe collecting images and facts makes them educated and competent, and all their experiences reinforce this belief. The central, organizing principle of this class is that ideas come from somewhere else, from magical persons, geniuses, “them.”–Paul Lutus, Creative Problem Solving
. . . My purpose in this article is to undermine that belief.
Most Schools Are Not About Lateral, Individual Thinking
In school it’s “weird” not to think like everyone else. The management problems of classrooms lead to social conformity and pathways through an over-structured curriculum. In society, lateral thinking is a prized commodity. Innovative thinking is essential to any change-based leadership brand.–ME “Liz” Strauss
My experience of school, both as a student and as a teacher was not geared toward developing new ideas. It was centered around teaching and learning what had already been done, without taking that next step to challenge the past with how it might have been done differently or better.
Working with Thoughts and Ideas Is the New Reality
The world economy has changed to one of service and ideas. Conversation is digital and content is king. The ability to work with ideas has become crucial to having a place in society. Thinking outside of the box is no longer a weird personality trait, but something to be admired and valued. It’s a key trait necessary to modern-day strategic planning and process modeling.
- Intellectual property — content — is an asset that not only gets produced, but reproduced, reconfigured, and re-purposed for variety of media.
- Those who produce intellectual property are builders of wealth.
- An original idea — a twist or tweak on an old process or product — that solves a problem or presents an opportunity is worth more now than it ever has been.
Those who develop, mold, and execute original thinking will own the future.
10 Skills Critical to Owning an Outstanding Future
- Deep independent thinking and problem-solving — The ability to understand a problem or opportunity from the inside out, vertically, laterally, at the detail level, and the aerial view.
- Mental flexibility — The ability to tinker with ideas and viewpoints to stretch them, bend them, reconstruct them into solutions that fit and work perfectly in specific situations.
- Fluency with ideas — The ability to describe many versions of one answer and many solutions to one problem set and to explain the impact or outcome of each both orally and in writing in ways that others can understand.
- Proficiency with processes and process models — The ability to discuss a problem in obsessive detail and to define a process, linear or nonlinear, that will solve the problem effectively within a given group culture.
- Originality of contributions — The ability to offer a value-added difference that would not be there were another person in the same role.
- A habit of finding hidden assumptions and niches — The ability to see the parts of what is being considered, including the stated and unstated needs, desires, and wishes of all parties involved.
- A bias toward opportunity and action — The ability to estimate and verbalize the loss to be taken by standing still and missed opportunities that occur by choosing one avenue over another.
- Uses all available tools, including the five senses and intuitive perceptions, in data collection — The ability to weigh and value empirical data, sensory data, and one’s own and others’ perceptions appropriately.
- Energy, enthusiasm, and positivity about decision making — The ability to bring the appropriate mindset to the decision-making process in order to lead oneself or a team to a positive decision-making experience.
- Self-sustaining productivity — The ability to use the confidence gained from the first 9 skills to establish relationships with people at all levels — from the warehouse to the boardroom — knowing that ideas are not the pride and privy of only a gifted few.
Innovative, imaginative, inventive, mind-expanding, playful-wondering, what-if, how-come, dramatic-difference, find-the-wow, visionary, killer-app, I-want-one, no-more-stupid-stuff, nothing-in-moderation, bet-the-farm, incredibly-sexy, please-please-can-I, that’s-so-cool, couldn’t-knock-it-off-if-they-tried-to, able-to-see-better-than-the-best, no-more-move-here-today-move-it-back-tomorrow, stupid kind of thinking happens outside of the box.
The skills that you develop from deep, individual thinking stay with you for a lifetime and are transferable from one job to another.
You don’t need them to write every shopping list, but you’ll have them whenever there’s a problem to solve or an opportunity to take advantage of.
It doesn’t take a genius to become a fluent, flexible, original, and creative source of ideas. It takes a person who can develop habits of thinking in new ways.
Imagine what you might do if you find out how you really think and use that.
You become uniquely you — BRAND YOU — the only one — priceless.
Who wouldn’t want to work with a person like that?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!
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