One of my favourite cricket players when I was growing up was Greg Chappell.
I admired his beautiful stroke play and elegant style.
But he had another strength that I had not fully appreciated until later.
His mental skills.
‘My routine allowed me to switch in and out of the different levels of concentration.
I had three: the first level was ‘awareness’; this was a state in which I was aware of what was happening around me but was not acutely focused on any one thing. It was used while waiting to go in to bat, between balls, and between overs.
I switched from awareness to ‘fine focus’ when the bowler reached the top of his bowling mark. At this point I moved my focus to the bowler’s face. That gave me an insight into his emotional state and, via my peripheral vision, into his body language as well. All of this helped give me valuable information and cues from the bowler.
As he reached his delivery point, I moved to ‘fierce focus’, narrowing my visual field and devoting my attention to the point from which the ball would be delivered.’
Notice how Greg could vary his level of concentration.
He could switch even for the briefest of moments but it meant that he was at his best when he needed to be.
This was a developed skill.
In a similar way, what if we could also learn not only to switch our concentration levels but our mode of thinking (i.e. note how we think influences how we feel and what we do).
My proposition is that there are two primary thinking modes: (note this can apply at an individual and team level)
- The Efficient Mode
This is the mode we use most of the time.
It’s quick, easy, takes less energy and it is based on what has worked in the past.
The goal in this mode is to think and do things as efficiently as possible.
This mode feels comfortable and in a sense is automatic.
It is our default or habitual mode of thinking.
- The Creative Mode
Now just imagine that we needed to solve a problem in a new way or generate a new idea or experience for a customer.
Or we feel stuck.
In these circumstances we need to switch to a creative mode of thinking.
This is a mode which is based around exploring new options, of being open to new ideas and trying to disrupt the efficient mode and seeing what emerges.
It’s fun, playful yet can feel slightly uncomfortable because there are no guarantees that this mode of thinking will work.
Notice I am using creative mode of thinking.
I have found this to be more inclusive term than using say ‘creativity’ for example.
For many people creativity suggests artistic endeavours only and since they do not dance or sing for example they consider themselves not to be creative.
What a terrible waste.
The goal is to be aware that there are (at least) two thinking modes and they can be accessed with the right tools and a bit of practice.
Together they form a more collaborative, flexible and productive way of operating in the world.
And that it is possible to switch back and forth between these two thinking modes (i.e. efficient and creative) depending on the need and situation.
I call this the changing from efficient to creative mode – Switch Thinking.
The good news is that Switch Thinking is a learned skill that anyone can use, any time with anyone.