Any sprinter about to run a race will always warm up with some good stretching for sure, and they may also do something to get their minds in the right place too. They know that not stretching may cause serious injury and that if their mind isn’t in the right place, they will lose to an athlete whose mind is in the right place. So, if you are about to do some thinking, what can you do to get your mind in the right place?
Have you been involved in a brainstorming session to find future opportunities for your business where you don’t do any mental warm-up at all? You come into a room with all the baggage of the last meeting still buzzing around your head, you read a few emails on your phone, make a couple of quick calls before you start and then you are into the main event. Sprinting off into the future of your business with an assortment of completely ‘irrelevant crap‘ filling your head. Is it a surprise that these kinds of sessions rarely deliver what is expected of them?
Athletes take time out to warm up their muscles and to get their mind completely focussed on the event at hand. We need to consider our thinking like they consider their athletic performance. If you are leading a thinking session, make sure you get your participants settled down before you start.
Mobile phones must be switched off and put away out of sight to prevent stray text messages distracting their owner’s thinking processes.
Tell them a few short stories about why you are doing this and what you expect to get out of it to get them focussed and then do a warm-up thinking exercise. A good exercise is to give each person a cheap toy at random and to ask them to give three reasons why this toy is representative of their personality. Then ask people to swap toys and to ask them how this toy is a metaphor for their problem and to give an example of how this toy could represent an abstracted solution to the issue in question.
This does two things; it gets their mind working in a creative and connecting manner as making these strange connections to a cheap toy isn’t easy. The exercise also helps to push that ‘irrelevant crap’ out of their heads as they become focussed on the warm-up exercise.
A good warm-up exercise will act as an interesting lead-in to your thinking session – but they are also useful in getting people to think differently in meetings too. Stretching your mind is just as important before a meeting as stretching your calves before a run. Give it a go and see the benefits.