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How to Improve Your Critical Thinking

Improve your critical and creative thinking using mind maps

Slow down your thought process a bit by creating clarity instead of speed.  Analyze options including pros and cons.  View and share the options considered.  Explore alternatives on paper or your computer screen in one visual that you add to, change, cross out as you go.  Mind maps are easy to follow, easy to review, and easy to use as an explanation.  

What to Do When Your Audience Thinks Different

Getting Your Idea Across to Business People who Think Different from You

It is tempting to present your ideas in the same manner that convinced you.

Your job was to collect and analyze the data not to present that data. Your job is to present the conclusion with 3 strong reasons why it is the best solution.

Then ask for questions and thoughts, followed by a quick repeat of the conclusion.

How to prove your point

Data may prove your point and drive away your audience at the same time

When we are trying to make a point, attract followers and support for an idea, we don’t want to appear to be expressing only our unsubstantiated opinions.

What to do? Use diagrams, not graphs and charts, use diagrams, simple drawings that make your point quickly and easily.

Grab a piece of paper or paper napkin if you are sitting in a restaurant, explain with a quick drawing. This is how it looks, this is how to get there, here is how I think it will fit, this is one way we can accomplish the goal, here is a mind map of the options we have.

Notre Dame

Not replaceable.  I am crying while watching Notre Dame in flames.  The art, the history, the beauty all destroyed by fire.  Some things can’t ever be reproduced.

Your Mental Shortcuts

Mental shortcuts, we all make them throughout the day. In a sense, they are necessary coping mechanisms your brain has been developing your whole life. Because there is no way to pay equal attention to everything within eyesight, earshot, and close enough to touch, our brain has developed filters to let in what it believes you need to know and leave out a large majority of what is going on around you.
Consider for a moment how you function during your daily drive or ride, or even walk, to work.
Most of what you pass by is a blur. Most of what you pass you take little or no interest. So much so that when you arrive at your destination you will not remember seeing or hearing most of what was actually there.
Your cognitive bias made those decisions for you. The filters you have built up to protect yourself from over stimulation and clutter worked.
But, and that is a big but, did you miss something that in the past wasn’t important but now is? Did you assume you knew what happened but really didn’t?
We can’t function in a busy world without our filters and we can’t take for granted that we didn’t miss anything important.
So what can you do? Ask others what they saw and heard. Ask for other viewpoints, other experiences, to add to your own. Be open minded about what you might have missed or added into a scene because of your filters, your own cognitive biases. They, too, have biases. Together you may both get a more complete picture.
Ask open questions and listen openly to the answers.

Start on Your Own When Brainstorming


Your best ideas will come to you unexpectedly.  Keep an old fashioned pen and paper handy or type into a notes section on your smart phone.

Just make lists at first.  Don’t discard anything because a seemingly ‘bad’ idea can be the trigger a whole raft of better ideas.

If your job is to get a whole team of people brainstorming, let everyone work on their own first.  One way is to challenge everyone with a required number of ideas that is bigger than anyone thinks they can do.  This forces writing down everything that comes to mind just to meet the requirement.

Then bring all the ideas together.  List them all. Organize them into natural categories to discover what categories have the most promise.  

Only then start to combine and build on the ideas offered.

For more on this topic see my TEDx talk:

Or get my book Power Brainstorming

#brainstorming, #powerbrainstorming, #hazelwagner

Are You a Thought Leader?

Thought leader
Is this a compliment or an insult?
If you are truly one of the knowledgeable ones in a particular field, others may be looking up to you, expecting you to know more than they do. They may come to you with questions and take what you say as truth.

We can learn from what we know about Socrates (470 – 399 BC), after all these years, not to jump in with a solution, an answer. First ask many questions so that you both are thinking more deeply about the problem. In many cases the person with the problem will discover the answer.

One of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “seek first to understand before seeking to be understood,” is a more current reminder to listen, ask questions, learn, before offering your thoughts, even if you are considered a thought leader.

Be Convincing When You Present

Learn how to give convincing and appreciated presentations 

Being able to sell your ideas and recommendations is a requirement for career advancement. Learn the 5 steps to take to make all your presentations business worthy.  

Being able to stand up in front of colleagues, in front of customers, or in front of your executive committee and nail that message, will advance your career.

Being smart isn’t enough.  Being knowledgeable isn’t enough.  Having done the research isn’t enough.

Avoid too much information, data.  Only include enough to support your conclusion.  Let them ask for more if they want it.

Create a beginning, middle and end to the story that supports your recommendation.

No slides with PowerPoint lists. 

Data can be the handout at the end, the leave behind.  Some will read it because they accepted your premise and conclusion.  Some will feel they already understand and don’t need to read it.

I will be offering an online course to address this topic.  Let me know if you or someone you know would be interested.

Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping

As many of you who have been following me for a while know, I am an enthusiastic supporter of mind mapping.  It was even the subject of my TEDx talk:

https://youtu.be/5nTuScU70As.  The subject creeps or completely invades most of my seminars on any topic, and I consistently encourage parents to teach their children how to use mind mapping to study more successfully for tests.

Ask me a question about mind mapping and be prepared for my enthusiastic responses.

One question I get asked repeatedly is for a recommendation about an online program.  I recommend anyone new to mind mapping to buy a pad of unlined paper, newsprint is fine, and use it to take notes at meetings and to make a diagram of a talk or explanation they will be making.  Learning to mind map by hand first will give you skills that will help you use a computer program effectively later.  

There are many online programs and you may want to experiment.  I just found out about a new one for me, “mind map online”.  Please let me know what you think of this one?

What if Someone Asks for Your Help With a Problem They are Having?

When an employee, family member, or friend brings you problem they are facing, how can you tell if they want solutions from you or for you to just listen?

Ask them.

Also if they are looking for a solution, ask first what they have tried or thought they could try. Get them thinking first.

Then if it does come down to offering your ideas, offer options, plural, so they can choose, and make it clear that these are ideas that if they choose something different you won’t be hurt. The choice is still their own.