Thinking outside the box can actually help you focus your thinking.

1 thinking rule to remember to help you think more effectively.

 In addition to my science based harassment trainings and my training on humanistic management (see I also teach critical thinking skills as they apply to strategic development (

When I first gave this talk to a group of HR professionals, I was asked about one of the techniques I teach in the program. It’s a mental shortcut I call “The Rule of 3s.  I was asked if this was a brain storming technique. I said yes, and no. It all depends on how you use it. While this technique can expand your thinking, it can also help you narrow it so that you can make better decisions. Like all good tools, it’s  multi-purpose. And like all good philosophers, I know that both expanding your thinking AND focus or simplify your thinking are useful in different situations. Wisdom is knowing when you need to expand your thinking and when you need to focus it.

Humans like to think in dichotomies. We are either for something or against something. False dichotomies are mental short cuts. The problem is that this shortcut limits our thinking. To just 2 things.
  If you are stuck in a rut and can’t see your way out, there is a good possibility that your thinking is limited in this way.

 An easy way to remind yourself to get out of it is to think of 3. Someone might be for something, against something or – on the fence about something.  You can always think of a 3rd option, if you try. And if you do – then you can probably think of 4 or 5 or6 or 20 things.  This is a quick way to kick start your brain storming on your own.

 The problem, when it comes to problem solving, is that not all of the possibilities you come up with will work. And if you try all of them you will be taking a scattershot approach and that isn’t very helpful either.  Sometimes your problem isn’t that you don’t have enough options, it’s that you have too may. In these instances we need to focus on those things that should yield us the best results.

Once you have done due diligence and have figured out those options that will yield the best results, I encourage people to use the rule of 3 again. Chose the top 3 most likely to succeed options and do your due diligence and cost benefit analysis on them. This makes the task doable and not overwhelming and you won’t be pulled in so many directions.

 Another way I use the rule of 3 is that when I am developing a strategy – I try to limit what I want to accomplish to 3 main focal areas (that way – again, I’m not over extending myself or the project. The project is doable. And, by focusing my work on 3 main things, I can more easily explain what I am doing to others.

 Finally, when I am creating a strategy  -  I usually want my projects to achieve 3 objectives simultaneously. This helps me ensure that I get the most bang for the time, money and energy expended on the project and that I’m not wasting my time.

 If you want to learn more – check out my course -

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