Asking these 4 questions will improve problem solving in your group

4 Questions that Will Improve Problem Solving in Your Group

Due to a quality problem with a weekly shipment, a large financial publishing firm was facing a very unhappy $50 million customer.

This was obviously a very big deal. The managers were scrambling for a solution and feeling stuck. So they reached out to someone in the organization who knew about our Whole Brain® Model and asked for help.

This person pointed out that the managers had done some things very well. They’d done the analysis. They’d crunched the numbers. They’d focused on the fact-based and implementation-oriented thinking aspects of the problem by discovering what the symptoms were and how they were playing out. Yet there was something missing—a new way of looking at the problem, a shift in mindset. Read more

Quotable Business Advice from the Whole Brain Business Book

Quotes from The Whole Brain Business Book, 2nd Edition

Twenty years ago, Ned Herrmann’s groundbreaking book opened the eyes of business leaders and professionals around the world to the power of Whole Brain® Thinking. With the release of The Whole Brain Business Book, Second Edition, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, CEO of Herrmann International, is carrying on her father’s legacy and bringing practical new insights and advice specific to the challenges of the 21st century business environment.

Filled with real-world examples and essential charts, action steps, exercises, and tools, The Whole Brain Business Book shows you how to rethink your business, prepare for the future, realign your goals, and reinvigorate your team—by putting your whole brain to work.

The select quotes below give you a taste of what’s inside: Read more

Why Being Right Can Be So Wrong

You're wrong, right?

Have you ever noticed that you’re always right?

You probably don’t believe that everything you think and say is the final, capital-T TRUTH—not at a conscious level, anyway. But like me, you probably tend to act that way.

That’s because each of us defines for ourselves what’s true and what’s untrue. We grow attached to a body of beliefs, which means that we resist new ideas. We tolerate other people’s opinions to the extent that they match our own. Beyond that, we unconsciously tune out.

When choosing friends, we gravitate toward people who agree with us. When encountering a new idea, we argue against it. We look for ways to make people wrong. When seeking feedback or solving a problem, we search out the people who reinforce us. We’d rather get validated than get challenged.

In other words, we’re always “right.” Read more

10 Quick Tips to Boost Productivity During Brain Awareness Week

Here are 10 tips to boost productivity during Brain Awareness Week

When it comes to productivity, your brain is your best ally—but are you ignoring the most important signals it’s sending?

Considering this week is Brain Awareness Week, now’s a good time to start paying attention to your mental energy and learning how to manage it to boost your productivity.

After all, it’s hard to be productive when your mental reserves are tapped, and today’s energy-draining environment is fighting you at every step. The typical response to declining energy and productivity levels is to try time management techniques so that you can catch up and stay on top of your workload. But most of those techniques are destined to fail when your energy level falls through the floor.

Increase productivity for Brain Awareness Week in less than 38 hours a day

Instead of thinking of productivity as a time management challenge, try viewing it as an energy management issue. Because while you can’t recover time—those wasted hours are gone forever—you can recover energy.

And here’s where your brain comes into the equation.

We often let this phenomenon of energy gain and drain happen by accident, but your own mental processes play a huge role in your energy throughout the day—at work, at home and with every person you meet. In fact, your energy levels have a lot more to do with what happens inside your head than what happens outside. Becoming conscious and intentional about this aspect of your life can unlock new levels of productivity. The key is to manage your mental filters, not your time. Read more

3 Strategies for Increasing Mindfulness and Productivity

3 Strategies for Increasing Mindfulness and Productivity

In our always-on/always-connected environment, between work and family, texts and emails, new demands and ongoing change, most of us are feeling like our brains are full.  And yet the constant stream keeps coming. It may seem unrealistic to hit the off switch, but we’re hoping to at least find a pause button.

This is one reason for the growing interest among business, HR and talent leaders in mindfulness and deep thinking, practices that just a few years ago would have seemed completely at odds with what it takes to be successful in business.

But whether you’re responsible for helping others develop and grow, managing people and projects, or just managing yourself, it’s easy to see how the distractions of the modern world are taking a toll, not just on performance, productivity and morale but also on people’s health and well being.

How can our businesses continue to thrive if we aren’t able to put our best thinking to work?

In fact, mindfulness is being aware of what’s going on in your brain. This is far different than being “mind-full”—letting your brain get so full that you feel overwhelmed by information.

Here are three strategies anyone can apply to increase mindfulness and become more productive as a result. Read more

A Powerful Learning Tool: Seating Based on Thinking Preference

Photo via World Financial Group

The keynote I delivered at World Financial Group last week had more than 200 leaders in attendance, all seated by their HBDI® thinking preferences. It’s always so striking to see how that validates people’s learning about themselves and others, both as they discover their HBDI® Profiles and begin applying what they’re learning.

In The Whole Brain Business Book, Ned Herrmann shares a story of the “aha” moment that came from just such a seating exercise. Presenting to a leadership group of a large company, he had assigned people to tables based on preferences (unbeknownst to the participants), and it turned out that the company’s chairman/CEO and president/COO had opposing profiles.

Elected as spokespeople for their respective tables to discuss the kinds of work they really loved and were energized by, it was almost as if they were speaking directly to each other, Ned recalled, as the “source of their 15 years of arguments and differences of opinion and frustration was being revealed.”

They realized they had a huge opportunity they were missing out on because they hadn’t been appreciating and taking advantage of their differences and cognitive diversity. It was not only a memorable public demonstration of the consequences of thinking preferences at work, but also the beginning of a true partnership between the two leaders.

Wayne Goodley, Director of Herrmann International in New Zealand, makes the point that seating by quadrant preference is “the best way to ease leaders into the appreciation of the HBDI®” and break down barriers to learning, adding that “the lively and often robust discussion which follows eliminates any doubts as to the effectiveness of the learning process.”

For HBDI® Practitioners out there, what’s been your experience with seating based on thinking preference? How has it affected the learning process and outcomes?

What Good Listeners Know

When you’re delivering a presentation, conducting a training class or just having a conversation with someone, of course it’s important to focus on what you’re saying. But what about the rest of that equation?

It pays to think about your listening skills. Marian Thier, an HBDI® Practitioner and cofounder of Listening Impact LLC, says they’ve found that companies whose leaders are excellent listeners have a strong advantage, outperforming the competition by a factor of three. But there’s more to being a good listener than just stopping talking.

In a recent Fast Company article outlining the habits of good listeners, Marian discusses how important it is to be able to adapt your own preferences to how others communicate. The better you are at planning your interactions and keeping the other person’s preferences in mind, the better you’ll be able to meet their needs. It seems obvious when we’re talking about talking, but it applies when we’re talking about listening, too.

So the next time you’re meeting with a client or facilitating training (or maybe having a conversation with a family member at the holidays!), try applying Whole Brain® Thinking as a listener and as a speaker, and see how that changes things.

As the playwright Wilson Mizner once said, “A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while, he knows something.”

How to Reboot Your Brain

You’re on a roll, tearing through that 20-page document, making changes and getting it all down. And then it happens:

Your computer freezes up on you.

It’s the ultimate frustration. Your system just won’t work, and the only way to move forward is to shut it down.

Something similar happens when you’re mentally stuck. Sometimes you need to change your entire operating system, but sometimes you just need to reboot.

There are advantages to both. Why and when would you want to reboot rather than change systems?

Well, a reboot is easier. It builds off of something you’re familiar with and allows you to feel like you still have momentum. Doing a zero-based budget is a great example of a reboot. Some years ago I was looking at needed cutbacks, and I as went line by line through the P&L, I got lost in the detail of it all: Did we really need this item? How much?

I felt overwhelmed and wasn’t making any progress. So I rebooted by trying a zero-based budget. I started with a clean spreadsheet and listed out all of the items that were must haves if I were starting the company today. Having the clean page gave me a fresh start, took the noise out of the process and made it all much easier. And I knew I could always go back and look at the old P&L if needed to.

You can do this with a project or any plan you get stuck on. (And if the blank page makes you feel even more stuck, try “walking around” the issue by viewing it from the perspective of each of the four quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model.)

What about in life? You can zero-base your life planning by simply asking yourself: If I only focused on what I want and needed from this this day forward, what would that look like? What if the past didn’t matter?

Feel overwhelmed by the never-ending number of commitments you’ve made? Zero-base your activities by imagining you have a totally clean slate to work with. What are the value-added activities you would choose to have in your life?

Feel that your team is riddled with baggage? Give yourselves permission to zero-base your team’s world. Start as if you were onboarding together as a new team. What meetings, processes and structures would you need to be most effective?

The key is to move everything down to zero and then add back in the items that are most crucial. It’s a great way to reboot, shift your thinking and get a clearer view.

Ready to try a reboot? To ramp up your brain first, check out this video that asks, what would you choose to do if money were no object? It will free you up to think differently!

 

Just Don’t Do It: Fight Distraction with Subtraction

Today’s world generates a lot of cognitive load, where our work and personal lives overlap and create even more complexities. We’re checking e-mails in the evening and on weekends, and making phone calls to resolve personal issues during the day.

We forget how much of the chaos in our lives is self-imposed. We complain about the complexity of our lives, we survey our crowded calendars and cluttered garages, and we wake up to the day already feeling overwhelmed. Yet at some point we agreed (or acquiesced) to taking on all those things. We complain about information overload even when we choose to over-consume information—a habit that we can control.

Here’s an idea: Don’t just do something—stand there!

When faced with a packed schedule and long to-do list, the natural inclination is to get busy and do something—anything. There is another option: Before you dig in, stop to think. Is everything that’s on your plate truly worth doing? You might be able to get the most important things done by filtering out the stuff that doesn’t really matter.

Because most of us are unconsciously allowing more possessions and commitments to stream into our lives. Stuff comes in so fast that we don’t realize how much we’ve accumulated. In contrast, letting go of stuff calls for mindfulness, new ways of thinking, focused action.

If you really want to get things done, you have to get more conscious about what you choose not to do. In other words, fight distraction with subtraction.

Imagine what it would feel like to have to have one more unscheduled hour in your life every day. What would become possible for you with that added space in your schedule? Now visualize a life where your weekends are largely unscheduled and you leave your office by 6 pm at the latest on a workday. It’s harder to let go than to take on, but it can be done. It just takes some practice over time.

Here are some tips to get you started:

1.  Write a three-item to-do list. Keep a master to-do list, then choose the next three things you intend to do and write these down on a Post-it. A three-item list is doable and inviting. In addition, crossing off those three tasks provides a dopamine-driven sense of reward and momentum.

2. Clean out your inbox and unsubscribe to any automatic e-mail list that you do not always read. Purge your subscriptions to magazines, newspapers and newsletters.

3.  Outsource your cognitive load. Draw out a map of your cognitive load:

  •  Take out a blank sheet of paper (or use a Walk-Around Pad), and map your cognitive load against the different thinking preferences as depicted in the four quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model:

A Quadrant: Financial, technical issues
B Quadrant: Unfinished projects, plans, organizational issues
C Quadrant: People and interpersonal issues
D Quadrant: Long-term concerns, “big picture” issues

  •  “Unload” by writing down the key areas that represent cognitive load for you, those areas that weigh heaviest in your mind, for both work and personal.
  •  Now look at the list. Is there anything you can outsource or delegate?

4. Stop the madness by creating a no-to-do-list. Attending meetings with no clear agendas or end times, spending large chunks of time on low-value/low-return activities or clients, mindlessly filling out unnecessary reports or other activities “because we’ve always done them,” checking emails throughout the day instead of at scheduled intervals… name your not-to-dos and then stick with it!

5. Get offline. Yes, you can.

You can balance FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out) with TOTO (the Thrill of Throwing Out). Savor the pure pleasure of a calendar with more blank space and a life with less stuff.

What have you chosen not to do? What about your team, colleagues or employees? How can you encourage them to overcome distraction with subtraction?

 

Plan for 2015 (and Beyond) By Building a Pathway to the Future

As 2014 begins to wind down, you’re probably starting to think about your plans for next year, and maybe even further down the road.  But where to begin?

As the Cheshire cat reminded Alice, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road can take you there.” You have to think about where it is you want to go before you can create the path to it.

In this brief video learning nugget, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi shares an easy exercise you can do to build your pathway to the future, whether you’re looking at the next year, or five years down the road, or even further. Try it and see where your imagination leads you!