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MAKING THE MOST OF THINKING CAPITAL

Tap into the benefits of you organisations thinking capability.

Have you ever given much thought to the potential of collective thinking and how it can be developed and harvested? This could be in the context of an organisation, a team, a meeting or whenever a group comes together and requires ideas and/or solutions. I thoroughly believe that there is insufficient emphasis placed upon thinking efficiency and productivity and certainly very little evidence that any significant amount of training and development takes place to enhance thinking ability. I’m talking about the type of thinking that can make an extraordinary difference to an individual’s, team’s or organisation’s performance and ultimately desired results. This is a seriously neglected and missed opportunity that can so easily be addressed.


I also firmly believe that given the opportunity, the answers to a vast majority of (if not all) problems lie within an organisation itself. Individuals, teams, departments, functions etc. more often than not can see the problems and where improvements can be made. They may even experience the frustration they cause on a daily basis. This should not be underestimated, for more often than not they also know what the solution is but for whatever reason they are unable to do anything about it. I have seen amazing things achieved when people are given the opportunity. The answers lie within.


The above is illustrated by a recent example when I had the misfortune of tearing the cartilage in my left knee (no heroics, I’m afraid, just stoking the fire!). Whilst finding myself prone in the minor’s department of the A&E department in my local hospital, after a pleasant surprise of no more than a two minute wait after arriving in a packed waiting area, I couldn’t help but overhear a couple of nurses. Somewhat surprisingly, one was complaining about how bored she was and that she was fed up with so little to do. The other nurse responded by saying she totally agreed and that given that Majors were bursting at the seams it would make so much sense if they could act as an overflow to Majors when they were as quiet as they typically were. She also added that they had all the facilities, staff and experience to handle the nature of many of the patient’s needs. She just couldn’t understand why they had so much capacity, yet Majors were seriously struggling with their workload.


Now, I’m no expert at running hospitals and I have no idea of the practicalities of making changes in line with the above, but it does seem absurd that one part of an A&E department can be struggling with workload whilst the other is sat twiddling their thumbs. What’s more, this was clearly obvious to the nurses, as was a solution. It does beg the question as to why something wasn’t being done to address this imbalance in patient care.


Lesson 1: trust your troops, they know more than you.



On numerous occasions I have witnessed the immense power of individual and collective thinking to achieve incredible results. I recall working with the IT department of a renowned University in the North East of the UK. Having had their customer service independently assessed it was found that they were below average (by comparison to other university IT departments) on all of the 18 areas being assessed. The perception of them by their customers was far from good. I was asked to run a half day workshop for approximately 120 people (pretty much the entire department) to help them find ways to improve this perception and significantly raise their service standards. With the aid of a number of facilitators I introduced a couple of thinking tools and processes which the participants applied to their own areas of work. The resulting output consisted of a high number of improvements they believed would have a positive impact on their customers (interestingly, a vast majority of these improvements were low cost or no cost). The Director of the department then empowered his team to implement the changes.


Six months later, the independent assessment was conducted again. This time, they were well above average on all 18 areas and the department won awards for the levels of excellent service that they were delivering. All this was achieved by the collective thinking power of the team members and a little effort to make the changes.


Lesson 2: everyone can make a significant contribution; they just need to be given the chance.



On another occasion my assistance was requested to help a client in the US nuclear industry solve a really tough technical problem. There’s no need to go into the technical detail but the problem required some breakthrough thinking and was extremely urgent in nature. The client had assembled a team of some of their leading engineers and they had been working on a solution for six months but were no further forward. Upon arriving in Charlotte, North Carolina a workshop commenced and with a degree of scepticism from the attendees, we started to examine the problem using systematic thinking tools and processes. Three hours into the workshop the engineers had identified four potential solutions, one of which resulted in being successfully implemented and the problem solved.


Now, I’m not a nuclear engineer, nor am I an engineer of any description so I was unable to make any technical contribution to the solution. Yet, the very same team that had been struggling for six months found the answer within three hours. Their technical ability was absolutely not in question at any time. These were a bright bunch of individuals who knew their stuff yet, the problem had them perplexed for months. They had the knowledge and the ability, and the answer lay within. They simply needed new thinking approaches to access it. Incidentally, the problem was not restricted to one nuclear power station and the resulting solution opened up a massive global market for them.


Lesson 3: knowledge is great, but sometimes to see, you have to forget.


About the author:


Tim Rusling has more than twenty five years experience as a management consultant with a passionate focus on developing and growing others, enabling them to fulfil their full potential.


Idea generation, problem solving, innovation and more broadly, thinking efficiency and productivity, has been at the heart of this.

He works with a diverse range of clients around the globe, striving to develop robust and practical approaches that enable others to achieve extraordinary results.


He supports his clients in all aspects of thinking efficiency and productivity and its management. This work includes:


  • Facilitating business specific related workshops
  • Developing and delivering a wide range of subject specific training programmes
  • Consulting in the area of thinking efficiency and productivity (typically, culture and management)


Tim can be contacted through the website.

Contact Tim

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