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Do you have ‘fatal’ thinking flaws?

In a 10-year study, involving hundreds of interactive creative problem-solving sessions, business strategist and innovation coach Matthew E. May gave over 100,000 professionals a thought challenge far less complex than their routine business problems.

Results? Not only did less than 5 percent arrive at the best and most elegant solution, but the solutions given were remarkably similar.

“It’s uncanny,” May says. “No matter where I went or who I gave the problems to, the results were eerily homogeneous. The evidence I’ve collected points to seven observable thinking flaws…glitches, if you will. It’s not brain damage, it’s the human hard-wiring that comes from deeply grooved thinking tracks formed over time. The good news is there are techniques, tips, and tools used by the world’s top minds to overcome those fatal flaws.”

May was working as a full-time advisor to Toyota’s U.S.-based corporate university in 2005 when he first began to notice repetitive thinking patterns preventing business professionals from arriving at the best answer.

“I did not set out to conduct a long-term psychological study,” he says. “Using a couple of different business-thought exercises, as icebreakers, we were surprised by how many people failed to solve the problem(s), and by the repetitive nature of thinking and behavior patterns.”

May left his consulting gig with Toyota in 2006, but kept using thought exercises in workshops, seminars, and speaking engagements all over the world. After a decade, he discovered that there are seven observable problem-solving patterns that can block our best thinking. They include:

  1. Leaping to solutions that simply don’t work
  2. Fixating on old ideas to the point of suffering tunnel vision
  3. Overthinking problems to make them worse
  4. Settling for obvious but inferior solutions
  5. Backing off goals just to declare victory
  6. Automatically dismissing the ideas of others
  7. Self-censoring

May shares techniques for avoiding these “fatal” flaws in his book, “Winning the Brain Game” (McGraw Hill, May 2016), drawing on interviews with innovative thinkers in the world as well as his experience in coaching individuals and teams.


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