This guest post comes from my long-time friend and colleague, Dr. Bruce Heller; it was first published in his own newsletter for May of this year:
I was sitting at my favorite Pete’s Coffee ruminating on a problem that needed to be solved. As I put figures on a piece of paper, I became discouraged that a simple and elegant solution wouldn’t emerge. I was frustrated. Then an old idea awoke in my head, and that quiet voice said “try pictures.”

I then proceeded to draw rectangles both up and down the page. I connected the rectangles with straight lines and arrows. The arrows created a sense of “velocity of thought.” I then wrote in the top rectangle the problem and added possible solutions in each box. The result was that he right solution then jumped off the page.

What worked is that I spent the time with a thinking tool called “Mind Mapping.” The critical fuel was taking the time to think. Yes, think. Thinking, the capacity that differentiates humans from other animals.

My thoughts turned to the history of IBM. The slogan THINK was first used by Thomas J. Watson in December 1911, while managing departments at the National Cash Register Company, which was the predecessor of IBM. THINK is trademarked, was on a placard on every desk, and embedded in the brick entry to IBM’s corporate offices. Thomas Watson used the slogan as a response to uninspiring sales meetings. He vociferously defined thinking as “taking everything into consideration.”

This is why IBM calls its laptops “Think Pads.” In fact Apple, trying to counter IBM’s THINK, launched the slogan THINK DIFFERENTLY.

Thinking eclipses emotional intelligence as the foremost model for successful leadership. Emotions don’t solve complex business problems, thinking does. If we spent more time thinking, problems would be solved more quickly and with more accuracy.

Below are five strategies or techniques you can use to simply THINK.

Take Time

– Thinking requires uninterrupted time. The thoughts created by thinking require “tethering” from one idea to the next. Put time in your calendar to simply think.

House your Ideas

– Have a repository where you can record your ideas. Write them down, speak them in a tape recorder, dictate them on a computer.

Inquiry Works

– Asking yourself questions is the catalyst for creative ideas. Inquire about a topic. Ask yourself what other ideas or solutions could solve this problem.

Criticism Contaminates

– For the best ideas to emerge, constrict any criticism. Thoughts are “sensitive” and will hide if confronted with internal critical voices.

Gain Knowledge

– Knowledge provides food for thought. The more you know, the more thoughts you have. Stimulate your mind with reading provocative, protracted prose that is contrary to your thinking. Read blogs, magazines, books and attend seminars on unexplored topics.
Dr Heller’s firm, The Heller Group, focuses on coaching for senior level executives.  They facilitate change within an organization that results in more effective leadership,  increased productivity, innovative thinking, and improved employee morale and retention. You can learn more by clicking here.

Put “Personal” Back in Your Communications!

FullSizeRender 186Business communications have become increasingly electronic, almost to the exclusion of everything else.

As a result, personal, handwritten communication has increased in value! Overcoming your personal devotion to efficiency and ease, you may want to consider some of the very simple ways you can re-introduce handwritten communications to your portfolio of business-builders.


For starters, try carrying a few pre-stamped postcards in your briefcase. When you’re standing in line, taking off or landing on an airline, or otherwise trapped in a mostly nonproductive time warp, pull out your cards and write a few lines to a client, or a prospect or referral source. A handwritten note from you will separate you from the pack, when that prospect is teetering on the brink of a decision.

When you’re traveling, pick up a few postcards or stationery from your hotel (yes, most still have them.) Start your note with, “I found myself in New Haven this morning, and thought of the conversation you and I had last Tuesday, about your…” You thought of your client while traveling! What a notion! Use a regular first-class stamp, not the postcard stamp, as it conveys the spontaneity you’re seeking, and you can afford the few cents’ difference–to make a difference! The note doesn’t need to be perfect, either–sometimes, a blotch or a crossed-out error adds to the feeling of “real” communication.

Ironically, the enemy here (your computer) may also be an ally. Using business form postcards (Avery, or some other brand), you can endlessly vary a custom set of postcards that carry their own message, picture, or cartoon.

Let your creative, fun & personal side set you apart from your competition!

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