“We will never get there with the thinking that got us here.” Einstein

Whether you are a founder, executive, friend or parent there are always moments of overwhelm and uncertainty.

When your nimble adrenaline-fuelled start-up company is beginning to creak and stall at it’s very moment of high growth.

When your once slick and energising professional day is feeling ridiculously busy yet somehow stagnant.

When your family life feels rushed and full of daily mini-battles.

When essentially your groove has become a rut.

What do you do?

Think endlessly about the problems themselves?

Rehash what has gone wrong?

Plan what needs to change?

This is called “single-loop thinking”: thinking in depth about a situation and the problems inherent in it and how to overcome them.

It can be effective but often it’s relatively short-term and unsustainable.

And you may find you are just burrowing deeper and deeper into that rut.

To make a real change shift instead to “double-loop thinking”: thinking about your thinking.

Bore down to a deeper level.

Study your own thinking about the situation: your thought patterns, your assumptions, biases and beliefs.

How does your thinking actually exasperate and deepen the situation?

What might happen if you changed your thinking instead of trying to change the problem?

Examine your thinking not the problem.

Exhibit One: Single loop thinking.

You are overworked.

You lament how much is in your diary, how incompetent everyone else is.

You take a holiday and then hire an executive assistant.

You are still busy all the time.

Exhibit Two: Double-Loop thinking

You are overworked.

You take a step back and look at your thoughts. You realise that you think no one else can do what you do as well you do it: so you do everything. You also think being busy is an achievement in itself.

You stop micro-managing: your staff step up.

You delegate, cancel, trim all meetings.

You are free.

Back to Einstein:

“A problem cannot be resolved from the consciousness from which it was created”.

So take a step back, put your own thinking on the table and not just the problem, learn and then move forward.

Into that groove

How to think about thinking

The aim here is to make your thoughts, assumptions and habitual ways of behaving “object” to you rather than “subject”. That way you have choice about what to do next.

  1. Put the problem on the table. The tangible problem. Write about it, tell a friend/coach/mentor about it, reflect on it over a period of time. Essentially notice yourself and your patterns.
  2. Walk around the table. Be curious. Why do I do what I do? What drives my beliefs? You can now add the intangible problem to the table: your beliefs and behaviours.
  3. Decide what belongs on the table. Choose your thinking and actions.
  4. Keep the table set. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Keep noticing your thinking and how it contributes to either deepening or alleviating your problems.

Some reading recommendations for those wanting to think about their thinking

Changing on the Job
Jennifer Garvey Berger
Your Brain at Work David Rock