Capital talk: Thinking about thought

  • Madhusheel Arora, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Mar 06, 2016 10:47 IST

What is obvious in hindsight, might be invisible in foresight,” said Edward de Bono, a UK-based thinking trainer.

Most decisions in personal and business life seem ‘so stupid’ when one confronts the havoc that they result in that we are left wondering whether any thought was put in before the call was actually taken.

All of us have moments when we say to ourselves, “Gosh! What was I thinking when I did that?”

The answer is that ‘really thinking’ about anything is rare indeed, what happens is we act our prejudices, our fixed notions of good and bad and simply stop when ‘we think’ the day’s job has been done to the specified standards of our superiors.

A dispassionate analysis would show that most ‘thinking’ usually starts well after the decision has been taken. This, of course, causes a lot of pain and stress when results simply do not measure up. Renting a house without verification of the tenant’s bona fides definitely falls in this category. Challenging our notion that we think — when all we are doing is defending our perceptions and arguing vociferously — is the credo of people like de Bono, who is quoted at the beginning of this piece.

Can we learn to think?

In our personal lives, we can manage to speak, act and behave with the bare minimum of thinking. A five-year-old ‘thinks about’ how to get a parent to buy her a toy and usually succeeds, not really by any logic or thoughtful arguments, but just by her charms or a tantrum or two.

However, in our ‘business’ lives we are paid, in essence, for the way we think and execute the responsibilities.

The question is how, why and what do we think? This is where the value of learning to think comes in.

Thinking is actually tough work that requires a careful consideration of all factors, projection of the anticipated results and always, always a back-up plan in case things go awry.

Logic is an important part of thinking, but interestingly, feelings are equally valid part of the process as well. The key to all thinking is that we should always focus on the endresult. We must ensure that we have some end in mind before we devote our precious time and resources to thinking.

Conscious thinking is what will work and bring the wanted result, though ‘unexplained creativity’ or insight or inspiration also has its moments. Indulging in thinking as a structured routine for even the minutest of real-life problems seems too much of a trouble for most of us.

Yet, this is precisely what is advised by de Bono and other trainers of his ilk. The first step is, of course, to clearly see and define to the minutest detail on what do we want? There are far too many people who start thinking without having a clear end delineated before them. You want a holiday, but do not communicate your budget? The end-result, the travel agent gives you five plans - all above your budget.

The example might seem simplistic, but similar situations arise all the time in our professional and personal lives.

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