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/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/5_effective_thinking_291445.gifI’m behind in my reading. More than 30 unread books are sitting on my office shelves and another one joins their ranks almost every week. In an attempt to break the logjam I opened one somewhat randomly and read this intriguing claim:

“You can personally choose to become more successful by adopting five learnable habits, which, in this book, we not only explain in detail but also make concrete and practical.”

With that, ‘The Five Elements of Effective Thinking’ went to the top of my list.

Mathematics professors Dr. Edward Burger and Dr. Michael Starbird believe effective thinking can be described, taught, and learned. They present some practical methods to improve thinking which – spoiler alert – boil down to asking better questions, taking calculated risks, and learning from mistakes. I believe this strongly enough that at a recent employee meeting I encouraged my team to take more risks and quipped that “failure is the new black”.

The five habits are based on the five classical elements:

  1. Earth = Understand deeply
  2. Fire = Make mistakes
  3. Air = Raise questions
  4. Water = Follow the flow of ideas
  5. Aether = Change

It may seem a bit contrived but the analogies work. To give you a sense of the book, here’s what the authors say about making mistakes:

“Fail to succeed. Intentionally get it wrong to inevitably get it even more right. Mistakes are great teachers — they highlight unforeseen opportunities and holes in your understanding. They also show you which way to turn next, and they ignite your imagination.”

Simple advice but too often ignored. Most of us avoid mistakes, missing the greatest opportunity to learn. If you fail more, you might be more successful.

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This blog was originally posted on Manage By Walking Around on Sept. 8, 2013.

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12 Comments

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  1. Tammy Powlas

    I really like this:

    failure is the new black

    I had a failure last month and I learned so much from it that it has made me more confident today.  If I hadn’t had that failure last month I wouldn’t have been so motivated to learn more.

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    1. Christopher Kim

      There’s an old story about an employee who was leading a big project but after six months the project was a spectacular failure. Afterwards the employee was quite surprised he didn’t lose his job.

      When the employee asked his boss why he wasn’t immediately fired, his boss simply said “Why would I fire you? I just spent 6 months training you.”

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  2. Andy Silvey

    Hi Jonathan,

    very nice blog.

    I personally believe that the number of mistakes which exist in the universe and which are possible for one to make is finite.

    Therefore, I believe that if we can do our best to learn from our mistakes and not make the same mistake twice, we will ultimately get to our destination.

    I totally agree we should not fear making mistakes, infact the fear of making mistakes or even more still, being seen by others to make mistakes is what holds a lot of people back.

    There is a saying often attributed to Michelangelo,

    ‘the greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it’

    All the best, nice blog and looking forward to more on this theme.

    Andy.

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  3. Marilyn Pratt

    Excellent cud to chew on and digest (using all 4 compartments or stomachs?) especially in light of our upcoming #FAILfaire.  I like your exercising caution in not calling Failure THE panacea for success but rather suggesting that owning it and learning from it is something worth cultivating. Very interesting article published same day that this, your piece appears here. http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/09/why-do-research-when-you-can-fail-fast-pivot-and-act-out-other-popular-startup-cliches/ The  article challenges Silicon Valley’s enamourment with failure.  I beg to disagree a little because I believe we aren’t  quite yet there in truly embracing the learnings and the transparency.  But do agree with being cautious about turning the celebration of failure into mere lip service.

    Would love to have your take on the WIRED article.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts and looking to you for support of FAILfaire at Teched.

    http://scn.sap.com/community/events/teched/blog/2013/09/17/why-owning-failure-makes-good-business-sense

    (shameless pitch)

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  4. Mika Sissonen

    The “intentionally get it wrong” idea reminds me of something I’ve tried at the driving range. I’m a terrible golfer, and on the rare occasions that I practice, I sometimes hit a slice or a hook on purpose, just to see how it feels. Once I know what an off-target shot feels like, I understand better how an on-target shot should feel.

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  5. cvraman sap

    Hi Jonathan

    Nice posting…. 🙂 I liked it.

    Adding to your stuff…

    1.”HOPE is a ROPE to climb the peak of SUCCESS.

    So, we should never loose our HOPE instead of constant failures….

    2. If we can learn something from our each failure, then ‘Failuretransforms intoExperience‘.

    Thanks

    Venkat

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