The HeadScratcher Post Archive
May  2013
"Not" Thinking
       May 2013 The Headscratcher Post Headscratchers LLC    Edition 91

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"Not" Thinking

"Not" Thinking is not about not thinking, but thinking using the "Not" operator. For example, we often look at situations and ask "what is this?" Add a question that leverages "Not", such as, "What is this not?"

Process of elimination is the implementation of "Not". You look at all the things that something cannot be, and what remains is the explanation.

"Not" is used in diagnosis, investigation, root cause, & discovery. By eliminating dead ends you greatly reduce the number of possible connections and variables, and subsequently reduce the time and effort to find the true explanation.

When discussing a very difficult goal conversations often occur about why it cannot be accomplished. You can apply the "Not" operator on this. Applying "Not" to "Cannot" becomes "Can". How can we accomplish this?

Another application of "Not" is when considering consequences. We generally ask, "if we do this what will happen?" We can also ask, "if we do Not do this, what will happen?" This helps us understand the consequences of inaction and can encourage us to move forward with action, or eliminate the need for any action at all.

Facts that include Not can be very helpful. For example; we know that a person cannot be in two places at one time. An argument for why someone could have not been present, or have known about something, or committed a crime, might be an alibi. If the accused was in this location at that particular time, then they could Not have been in that other location at that same time.

Use "Not" to explore other explanations. If you are figuring out what caused something to happen, you will generally start with questions about what could cause this. Once you find a cause and effect link, don't stop there. Ask, "While that may be the cause, what if it was Not?". This leads to the question, "What else?", i.e. What else can cause this?

Lastly, use "Not" to avoid unintended consequences. When you set out on an initiative with goals that you want to accomplish, consider adding outcomes you do Not want to occur. For example; In an effort to meet market demand, you increase the production rate. This includes extending shifts, and paying overtime. People are initially happy as the company is more profitable, and because of the overtime, they are making big bucks! However, after awhile, morale decreases, people are getting tired, and as a result there is an accident. This shuts the line down for a week. You did NOT want that to happen. Your goal could have been, how do we meet demand, and NOT jeopardize safety, or the morale of the team? Other instances might include; How can we raise prices, but Not reduce volume? How can we speed up development, but Not jeopardize quality?

The Takeaway: Use the "Not" operator, not as a negative, but as a way to explore alternatives, eliminate dead ends, avoid unintended consequences, strengthen arguments ... and stimulate new thinking.

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