Time To Breathe
I worked in the Tech Industry, I remember the experience as a great observation pad. I was fascinated on how the organization ran and didn’t at times. Most fascinating was the onboarding process or lack thereof. Another department that was collocated with mine hired a new analyst from one of the large consulting firms. He was sharp and had a great skillset for analytics but had previously worked in healthcare and didn’t understand the ecommerce world.
He was hired in a rushed process by a manager with little available time. On day one, the new Analyst didn’t know what to do so he check in and sat in front of a computerless cubicle for eight hours. His boss didn’t have time to onboard him, and he neglected it. Over the next few days, the new Analyst got a computer and within a month he picked up a small new project to work on.
The Analyst tried to learn the nuances, but his boss was in a schedule of nine-hours of meetings per day. He found that he could never even ask simple questions and his project work was always way off the mark. On the Analyst’s one year start date anniversary he resigned. He looked like a grape that had withered on the vine.
Humans are prone to activity and susceptible to busy work. High achievers move to busy themselves. This behavior is reinforced in society of rewarding the busier, often you’ll see high achievers or busy bodies promoted into management positions.
This translates to the office where it is common to see managers stacking their schedule. Building a plan loaded with task and activity. It is in their nature to occupy their mind with activity tasks which can get in the way of value-added tasks.
Harvard professor and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead philosophized much about the thinking process. In 1911 he wrote “By relieving the brain of all unnecessary work, a good notation sets it free to concentrate on more advanced problems.” The mind can too easily get hijacked by the insignificant that is misses the main point.
Anyone can dig a ditch; your organization pays you for your exceptional performance and problem solving. This is providing high value to the organization. It is why the President doesn’t take out the garbage, they have larger impact things to think about.
Thinking and problem solving isn’t a linear experience. Nor is it a quantifiable process. A person can put themselves in position to think more effectively though by prepping their environment and clearing out cognitive space so that they can think.
Theoretical physicist and author Leonard Mlodinow focuses his efforts on elastic thinking. The act of letting go of comfortable ideas. Believing that it lets your brain make connections without direction. This type of thinking is synonymous with creative thinking, but it would never pass a productivity test.
Keeping a clear cognition is not an easy task, how do you open your mind up? Efficiency expert and author David Allen theorized in his book “Getting Things Done” that when an idea gets into your head that you write it down. That then enables you to release it from your bandwidth. You don’t want little things occupying your mental space (Allen, 2015).
The same can be said of mental distractions. Great thinking comes out of spare moments and boredom. Phones are great at eliminating boredom in today’s society, also at reducing deep thinking.
Theoretical physicist Richard Feynman approached problem solving by always keeping a dozen of his favorite problems in his head constantly. It would help with new ideas that arise and give him the ability to transfer them between problems. A cognitive stew where the flavors come out when they cook together.
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