4 ideas to make structured thinking stick

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Structured thinking techniques are powerful for those who need clarity in their problem solving and cut through in their communication. …

Structured thinking techniques are powerful for those who need clarity in their problem solving and cut through in their communication.

They help confirm the precise nature of the problem you are solving and provide a framework to map and manage the work that needs to be done to solve that problem. They also help you prepare pieces of communication. They help clarify the single question that your audience needs an answer to, help you answer it and then support that answer logically.

However, even though the benefits are substantial and the theory is relatively simple, few people capture the full value from these insight creating, productivity boosting techniques.

Here are four ideas to help you benefit from structured thinking developed from our 40+ years helping other use these techniques.

For more, visit our website, www.claritycollege.co

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  • 1. In search of Clarity 0In search of Clarity 0 In search of Clarity Making structured thinking stick
  • 2. 1In Search of Clarity Powered by www.claritycollege.co Four ideas for making structured thinking stick Hello, As you likely know, structured thinking techniques are powerful for those who need to clarity in their problem solving and cut through in their communication. They help people confirm the precise nature of the problem they are solving and provide a framework to map and manage the work that needs to be done to solve that problem. They also help people when they need to communicate. They help clarify the single question that their audience needs an answer to, answer it and then back that answer up logically. However, even though the benefits are substantial and the theory is relatively simple, few people capture the full value from these insight creating, productivity boosting techniques. With more than 40 years helping people use these techniques to focus more deeply on the thinking that underpins their problem solving and communication, radically reduce rework and deliver more powerful insights, we have identified four key ways to make structured thinking stick: 1. Start small, aim big 2. Tackle the techniques from the top down 3. Use one-pagers to focus your thinking 4. Avoid getting sloppy with your logic. Read on to learn more about each of these ideas and to read some ideas from people who have put them into practice. Regards, Davina Stanley and Gerard Castles
  • 3. In Search of Clarity Powered by www.claritycollege.co 2 Start small, aim big 1. Set aside 30 minutes each week to focus on getting better at using these techniques: Intriguingly, 4pm on Monday works for a lot of people. 2. Focus every small piece of communication you prepare on the audience's concerns, not yours. 3. Make sure every email has a CTQ followed by one single answer, or governing idea.
  • 4. In Search of Clarity Powered by www.claritycollege.co 3 Tackle the techniques from the top down C T Q Once you know what problem you are solving or question your audience is asking, the rest comes together more easily
  • 5. In Search of Clarity Powered by www.claritycollege.co 4 Use one-pagers early to boost your productivity 1. Map your problem 2. Map the argument for your story
  • 6. In Search of Clarity Powered by www.claritycollege.co 5 Don’t get sloppy with your logic neosi will keep you focused on the logic (www.neosi.co) and save you time
  • 7. In Search of Clarity Powered by www.claritycollege.co 6 It’s time to get started …. 1. Put time aside to learn 2. Try neosi (www.neosi.co) 3. Visit www.claritycollege.co for more ideas 4. Read the case studies that follow for inspiration 5. Email us at hello@claritycollege.co if we can help
  • 8. In Search of Clarity Powered by www.claritycollege.co 7 Stories from others Other people’s stories can be the difference between an idea being just an idea, and an idea being something that can add real value to your career and your business. As a result, we collect client stories and where they are comfortable, share them with others like you. The four stories listed here provide a random snapshot of recent client experiences where people have learned and then applied structured thinking techniques to improve the clarity of their communication. 1. One page proposal a real winner 2. Susan’s 5-minute finance update 3. A neat way to plan a career move 4. CEO loved Emily’s one-pager
  • 9. In Search of Clarity Powered by www.claritycollege.co 8 One-page proposal a real winner Gerard has not been able to stop grinning ever since a client called to tell him how well they went in a high-stakes proposal process. His client was not even a true contender, having been brought in at the eleventh hour as a favour, and yet won the work over four other 'preferred suppliers'. When the CEO (and now client) told them they had won the work, he was carrying the one-page proposal storyline and said: "If you can communicate with us this clearly, why would we work with anybody else?" So, how did they do it? They focused on the thinking first before they prepared their communication end products by • Thinking through the context and trigger from the client's perspective first • Making sure they articulated the client's problem up front • Preparing a powerful one-page storyline which clearly outlined how they would help solve their client's problem • Attaching the one-pager to the covering letter and binding it inside the proposal documentation, just before the contents page • Ensuring that each of the sections within the tender document was completed with a big idea followed by parallel supporting points Let us know if you have had some success with the one-page storyline idea too. We'd love to hear about your experiences.
  • 10. In Search of Clarity Powered by www.claritycollege.co 9 Susan’s 5-minute Finance Update Rarely does a new employee in a finance department receive praise for the clarity of their management update. However, Susan did when she presented her first report to her GM. Her GM said that Susan's five-minute update was the best and clearest ever! How did she do it? Susan provided the GM with a crystal clear storyline rather than the spread sheets and tables that her predecessor had used. Here's what she did. She: 1. Analysed her audience. Susan thought through who would be in the briefing, what they wanted and what she wanted them to do as a result of the briefing. She realised the GM and leadership team were missing the "story" and couldn't see the wood for the trees - she had to make sure the real story was clear in the update. 2. Built a clear storyline. She realised she needed to explain that the BU financials were on track with forecast but that could have been because of some one-offs that needed attention. We developed a simple one pager to explain the story (using Neosi of course). 3. Practiced. Susan practiced delivering the story and had the key numbers attached as back up. The result - a five-minute update to the BU with the GM saying it was the best and clearest ever!
  • 11. In Search of Clarity Powered by www.claritycollege.co 10 A neat way to clarify a career move From time to time our friends and clients tell us a story about how they have used neosi that makes us smile. A recent conversation with my friend Andrea was one of these. Andrea wears many hats as a CEO and female business leader in general. One of her recent tasks has been to mentor senior people, and having recently attended one of my Clarity Workshops, she decided to apply the techniques in a new way. Her mentee had some decisions to make about her career and Andrea used neosi to help her client clarify her career decisions. Here's what she did: First, she helped her client map out the options she was being presented with as a way to fully understand each proposition and then choose the preferred path. She mapped out a story describing the strengths and weaknesses of each approach to help do this. Once her client had identified which way she wanted to go, they then worked together to build a story describing her 'plan of attack' for the new role. The structure and the discipline provided a framework for mapping out the options and the path forward for her as an individual, as it might for a company as a whole. Let us know at hello@claritycollege.co if you have found any left of centre ways to use structured thinking. We'd love to hear about them.
  • 12. In Search of Clarity Powered by www.claritycollege.co 11 CEO loved Emily’s one-pager One of my consulting clients recently needed to present to her CEO for the first time and was concerned that her 'energetic and organic’ style was going to get in the way of her message. She realised she had two main challenges to overcome: nerves (given it was the first time she had presented one-on-one to her CEO) and her tendency to wander "all over the place" in her presentations. We worked together to prepare her story while also introducing structured thinking techniques, and she was thrilled with the one-pager that we prepared that encapsulated her story as well as his response. Here's what she said after the meeting: "The presentation went really well. I synthesised my slide even further and really told a story which worked really well. I communicated my main points and even though his questions threw me from the flow of the presentation, I brought it back each time. The objective was to gain support for the program and we achieved this. He mentioned my presentation in the following week's trading meeting which was great."I also had a presentation to Jenny the next day and I had to pull the one page slide together in an hour which I managed using neosi. This presentation was on a completely different topic and in quite a complex space. I am finding that I am faster and more effective at working through what I am trying to achieve and how to best synthesise this in a presentation. Thanks again for your help, Emily”
  • 13. In Search of Clarity Powered by www.claritycollege.co 12 A bit about us This was prepared by Davina Stanley and Gerard Castles, founders of www.claritycollege.co. Davina and Gerard are also the creators of neosi, software that helps you intuitively map your thinking into a cohesive argument and then automatically creates Word and PowerPoint documents for you. They both began their consulting careers at McKinsey & Company: Davina in Hong Kong and Gerard in Sydney Australia. Together they now serve a range of clients to improve the clarity of their problem solving and communication. Recent engagements include • Helping more than 1500 lawyers learn how to clarify their thinking so they can communicate their key ideas within 30 seconds • Designing a change management program for a regional consulting firm that wanted to radically improve the way it served its clients • Building a comprehensive program to embed structured thinking skills in a large Australian corporate Feel free to make contact at hello@claritycollege.co if you have any questions that we could help you answer.