Why flexible thinking is more important than ever

In a world of incessant change and rising complexity, flexibility is one ability that is rising in significance. With its position in fostering creativity, innovation, and agility, cognitive flexibility is one of many top skills required to excel in at this time’s office.

Nevertheless, flexible thinking doesn’t at all times come simple. Once we’re feeling anxious, underneath the gun, or depleted, we could be particularly prone to falling into slim and inflexible thought patterns. The excellent news is that anybody can discover ways to suppose more elastically.

Take my shopper, Kris, a former administration advisor who was struggling to regulate to a piece surroundings that was nimbler than his earlier position. Since Kris was accustomed to a methodical, structured strategy—and tended to see issues in black and white—he struggled to suppose in a divergent method and crack the issues he was tasked with.


Are you caught on an issue? Or possibly you discover that you simply’re second-guessing your selections? Or possibly you hear phrases like at all times, by no means, or not possible arising in your ideas and conversations? In that case, it could sign that your ideas have gotten more and more slim.

Strive the next methods to encourage more elastic thinking and unleash inventive new options to the issue you’re going through.

Search outdoors inspiration

We every function with a psychological schema constrained by our restricted expertise and publicity to the world of prospects. Whether or not it’s the household and tradition wherein we had been raised, the topics we’ve studied, or the industries we’ve labored in, we make most of our selections from a slim area of the examples and norms round us.

While you come up in opposition to an issue that you would be able to’t crack with the same old options, take a look outside your business to select up on sure radical and sudden types of innovation. As an illustration, 3M developed a breakthrough answer for stopping postsurgical an infection after soliciting enter from a theatrical make-up specialist. Additional, Cirque du Soleil reinvented circus arts by drawing inspiration for its particular results and costumes from numerous fields, together with plumbing, aviation, and dentistry.

In the same strategy, you may make a listing of mates in different industries and inquire how they could clear up your difficulty. By pooling insights from individuals who aren’t restricted by the identical assumptions and psychological schemas, you’ll be more prone to develop the breakthrough thinking vital for fixing your drawback.

See issues from a unique occupation

To interrupt out of your ingrained thinking and generate further concepts, step into the sneakers of various professionals. For instance, ask your self: How would possibly a CFO take into consideration and clear up this drawback? Or, the top of gross sales or one among your clients? What would possibly a health care provider or an architect do?


For a separate variation on this attitude, attempt to tackle the mindset of somebody out of the field to who you’re. Adopting an alter ego is a great way to do that. Then, ask your self, How would I clear up this if there have been no constraints? A fantastic instance of this sample of thinking is Edward de Bono’s “six thinking hats” exercise, which entails adopting a myriad of roles to see from completely different angles.

One other worthwhile route is to faucet into your internal 5-year-old. View the state of affairs afresh with none preconceived notions and ask easy questions like Why? Why not? and How? Adopting a newbie’s mindset opens you as much as studying, seeing new prospects, and attaining larger creativity.

Entering into others’ sneakers and your state of affairs by way of a unique lens will make it easier to get out of typical thought patterns and ideally result in new prospects.

Get provocative

Creativity requires exploration and risk-taking. Make a deliberate effort to hunt out new methods of doing issues. Set an audacious aim of arising with 10 or more new concepts. There is a correlation between how a lot time we spend searching for new concepts and what number of concepts we give you, so give your self ample time.

Most important, give your self express permission to dream up concepts that could be impractical, foolish, or unrealistic. The purpose is to interrupt out of your present thought patterns. The wacky and impractical concepts you generate might function stepping stones to new workable options.

Take your thoughts off of issues

To generate the perception we have to clear up the complicated issues of at this time, we have to step away often.

While you spend time thinking critically about an issue after which cease engaged on it, your unconscious thoughts continues to work within the background and make associations. While you permit your thoughts time to relaxation and wander, new connections pop up in your consciousness as insights.

Taking breaks is subsequently important to the inventive course of. For instance, Albert Einstein commonly stepped away from his work to pick up his violin, an instrument he cherished to play. Returning to his desk, he would join dots he hadn’t seen earlier than; that’s when he developed a number of the most elegant science theories to this point. As Einstein as soon as mentioned, “I by no means came across any of my discoveries by way of the method of rational thinking.”

And he is only one instance. Based on one Michigan State College study, Nobel Prize-winning scientists had been 2.85 instances more prone to have an inventive passion than the typical scientist. The inventive proof exhibits that as a way to gas perception and creativity, you want a stability of labor and relaxation. So, while you’re feeling caught with an issue, step away for some time and do one thing you get pleasure from.

You possibly can broaden your perspective and carry your self out of a vexing drawback by embracing a flexible mindset. In consequence, it’s possible you’ll encounter an modern concept that appeared elusive earlier than.

Dina Smith is the proprietor of Cognitas, a management improvement agency within the San Francisco Bay Space.