Tools with Strong Handles

Part of the reason these tools are so effective is the kind of names I've given them. Descriptive, memorable, and fairly short names such as 100 MPH Thinking, Intergalactic Thinking, Ask a Better Question, and 180° Thinking simply make the tools they represent easier to use.

I was using each of these thinking methods long before I started naming them. And you know what? They weren't quite as effective, neither for individuals nor, particularly, for groups. People understood the concepts, but they often had a hard time communicating what the tools meant to others, which also affected how they used the thinking methods themselves.

The names help you quickly get your mind around the basic functions of the tools. For groupthink, these mnemonic handles facilitate quicker, easier communication, to be sure. Imagine hearing a team of carpenters talking about their tools if they didn't have names for them: "Hey, Bob, can you pass me that long, flat, tapered piece of sheet metal with the sharp teeth and the wooden handle?" I don't think so.

A number of years ago the head of AT&T new media told me he had a bunch of creative geniuses working for him. When I asked if they could speak to each other in the same language he looked at me sideways, as if to say, "There's a language?"

Yes, there is a language. It's the names of these tools. When teams use these methods for groupthink, it's like a football team calling a play. Someone says, "Let's throw some 180° Thinking at this opportunity," and everyone else knows the drill. Imagine even the best football players in the world going out on a field with no set plays. They'd all be running into each other.

The names make the tools more usable. They give them handles. We're a sound-bite society that needs shortcuts to communicate. When it comes to creative thinking, you now have your vocabulary.

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