My eyes were recently opened to a different way of doing something I do several times a week and have never questioned. Watch this:
Now this seemingly trivial act, peeling a banana, never crossed my mind as being something that could be optimized, as something that primates had mastered ages ago while I’m sitting here comparatively banging it against a rock to get the tasty fruit out of the peel. But this is not only a convenience I will benefit from for the rest of my life, it opened my eyes to something more. The fact that we operate on autopilot for most of our lives is quite useful, it helps us get through the day without having to actually methodically think through every little decision we have to make every second of our lives, freeing our minds to think about more important things than place finger on ‘a’ and press down, nod head to convey agreement, extend hand to shake, peel banana, etc…
The down side of this transient mode of operation is that it causes us so much effort to step back and think critically about our actions that we often do not do it, and don’t even realize we’re not doing it. We don’t ask ourselves questions like: “Should I actually be doing this activity?” or “Is there a better way to accomplish my goal?”
Regular retrospectives such as the one prescribed by Scrum or Kanban’s Kaizen events are good examples of trip wires that allow us to stop and look back at what we’ve been doing and ask ourselves how our manner of operation could improve.
Pairing up can also be a good way to keep sharp by having someone else to keep you on your toes, even better if you’re not as comfortable with your pairing partner.
I also find James Bach’s simple “Huh? Really? So?” technique useful for sparking critical thinking on a given subject:
Are there other techniques you use to keep sharp and make sure you’re identifying and questioning your assumptions?
I was turned onto this banana clip by Chip and Dan Heath’s Decisive. A great book about decision making that I will probably review in more detail later. I highly recommend it for anyone that makes decisions, which means YOU.