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Last Updated on January 30, 2018

The Key to Einstein’s Genius

The Key to Einstein’s Genius

The key to Einstein’s genius is to learn how to stay with a question longer. Albert Einstein famously remarked,

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask for once I know the proper question I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.

Einstein also stated,

It’s not that I’m so smart but I stay with the questions much longer.

To stay with our questions longer, DSRP Thinkquiry Questions is a good way.

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What is DSRP Thinkquiry?

DRSP Thinkquiry is developed by Derek and Laura Cabrera – professors at Cornell University. It is a systems thinking approach to structure information and questions in a systematic way.[1] This approach applies simple rules underlying systems thinking. These simple rules are Distinctions – Systems – Relationships – Perspectives (DSRP).

DSRP ThinkQuiry Questions are the building blocks of cognition and are required to deconstruct a problem or issue. You can learn more about this approach and even use it online at www.thinkquiry.us. Furthermore, I encourage you to read more about Derek and Laura Cabrera’s work and two of their outstanding books – Systems Thinking Made Simple and Thinking at Every Desk.

Beyond the Socratic Method

    In Thinking at Every Desk, the Cabrera’s inform us that we should think of DSRP as guiding questions and as a new form of Socratic questioning for the 21st century. They found that the Socratic method of questioning leads students to a black and white view of the world, where DSRP questions lead students to see the infinite shades of gray that actually exist in the world.

    With DSRP Thinkquiry the Cabrera’s sought to provide us with a new way to ask different questions. Here is what they had to say. [2]

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    “We wanted to get people asking different kinds of questions. Questions that lead to new insights and answers but also more questions. Structural questions that can be mixed and matched to form even more complex questions that get at the essence of the wicked problems and complex systems around us.”

    Let’s now dive into DSRP Thinkquiry using a personal example of mine. I write extensively on the foster care system and have published numerous articles and a few books. Books such as Succeeding as a Foster Child a Workbook. I recently published an article on the Different Perspectives of the Foster Care System where I surveyed 243 individuals in order to identify their perspectives of the foster care system using DSRP as a framework and a guide to build better questions for the study.

    Additionally, I used the newest tool created by the Cabrera’s to finish the study – a powerful and free application located at https://kingfisher.link. It is essentially a virtual systems thinking whiteboard.

    Building Better Questions

    Starting with distinctions, let’s see how I was able to ask better questions using the foster care example.

    Distinctions

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      Guiding Questions:

      1. What is Foster Care?
      2. What is-not Foster Care?
      3. How would you distinguish between Foster Care and a similar thing – such as Adoption?
      4. Can you compare and contrast Foster Care and Adoption?

      Systems

        Guiding Questions:

        1. What are the parts of Foster Care?
        2. What is Foster Care a part of?
        3. Can you name some of the parts of the parts of Foster Care?
        4. What are the parts of the relationship between Foster Care and Adoption?
        5. What are the parts of Foster Care when looked at from the viewpoint of a Foster Parent?

        Relationships

          Guiding Questions:

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          1. What ideas are related to Foster Care and what ideas are related by Foster Care?
          2. What idea relates Foster Care and Adoption?
          3. How are the parts of Foster Care related?
          4. How are the parts of Foster Care related to the parts of Adoption?
          5. What are the relationships among Foster Care and Adoption and other things?

          Perspectives

            Here I will use perspectives uncovered during my survey discussed earlier.

            Guiding Questions:

            1. What are the parts of the viewpoint Foster Care when looking at challenges in foster care from multiple perspectives.
            2. How are Foster Care and Adoption related when looking at them from a new perspective – from the perspective of a Foster Child.
            3. Can you think of Foster Care from multiple perspectives?
            4. What are the parts of Foster Care when looked at from multiple viewpoints?

              The Cabrera’s have provided us an improved way to ask better questions. They have provided us, not only a way to stay with a question longer, but also a better way to build questions. I have personally found that by simply using DSRP Thinkquiry Questions, I am able to uncover new ideas that were not previously held in my mind. In fact, I call their systems thinking approach my “aha” or epiphany generator!

              To me, it’s as if the questions are Lego blocks in a random pile. DSRP Thinkquiry Questions are a way to see each block as a different question, where our job is to simply connect them.

              Reference

              More by this author

              Dr. Jamie Schwandt

              Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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              Last Updated on September 17, 2018

              How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

              How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

              Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

              Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

              All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

              Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

              How bad really is multitasking?

              It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

              Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

              This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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              We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

              So what to do about it?

              Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

              Now, forget about how to multitask!

              Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

              1. Get enough rest

              When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

              This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

              When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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              2. Plan your day

              When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

              When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

              Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

              3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

              I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

              I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

              Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

              4. When at your desk, do work

              We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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              Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

              5. Learn to say no

              Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

              Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

              By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

              6. Turn off notifications on your computer

              For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

              Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

              7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

              Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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              You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

              The bottom line

              Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

              Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

              Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

              Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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