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Published on April 23, 2018

Creative Problem Solving: Create Meaning from Contradictory Ideas

Creative Problem Solving: Create Meaning from Contradictory Ideas

Those who succeed in an unending changing environment are able to do one thing really well:

Create meaning from contradictory ideas.

We can create meaning by determining the factor of the interaction between contradictory ideas. We can do this through what is known as the Dialectic Method. This method was constructed mainly by Karl Marx, yet it heavily built on the ideas of the Hegelian dialectic.

In this article, I will explain to you what exactly the Dialectical Method is and how you can apply it in life to be a more creative problem solver.

Creative problem solving: the Dialectical Method

    Dialectic implies a process of evolution, where dialectical logic is a system identifying the structure of thought and was initially intended to replace the laws of formal logic. Nevertheless, I do not intend to dive into the history of the Dialectical Method.

    My intent here is to propose this method as a way to create meaning and create something new in our contemporary chaotic world by examining the three stages of development within the Dialectical Method:

    1. Thesis
    2. Antithesis
    3. Tension resulting in Synthesis

    All thought is based on pieces of a previous thought:

      Before you start diving into any of the stages, you need to first understand the meaning for each stage.

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      Just like anything else, you must understand what each stage is before an understanding of the topic is reached.

      Stage #1: Thesis

      First, you have your thesis, known also as a proposition. This is the starting point or the status-quo giving rise to the reaction (antithesis).

      Stage #2: Antithesis

      Second, the antithesis is the reaction or the contradiction. This is the counter-proposition.

      Stage #3: Synthesis

      Third, the tension between the thesis and antithesis is resolved by synthesis.

      In other words, this is where meaning is created and where the new thesis comes to be.

      What’s important to understand here is the meaning of synthesis and how it differs from analysis:

      • Analysis is an examination of the elements of something (think of breaking something apart or analyzing each individual piece of a puzzle).
      • Synthesis is the combination of ideas to form something new (think of putting the pieces of a puzzle back together, yet you see something completely new).

        Want to know the best part of the Dialectical Method?

        This process is unending. Your synthesis is your new thesis, for which it too will possess a counter-proposition (antithesis).

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          Watch the following video for a deeper understanding of the Dialectical Method:

          Destructive deduction and creative induction

            According to John Boyd, famous Air Force Colonel, we are constantly breaking apart old paradigms and putting the pieces back together creating a new perspective better matching our current reality. Essentially, we orient our self to a rapidly changing environment. This ultimately led to Boyd’s creation of the OODA Loop.

            Check out this article to find out more on the OODA Loop: A Fighter Pilot’s Secret to Surviving Wars: Making Right Decisions Fast

            Boyd described this through a thought experiment in a presentation called Strategic Game of ? and ?. Through the process of Destructive Deduction (analyze and pull apart mental concepts into discrete parts) and Creative Induction (using these elements to form new mental concepts) we can create a new mental model that more closely aligns with reality.

            Moreover, Boyd illustrated this thought experiment in an interesting way. Let’s see if you can figure it out.

            Part 1 of his question:

            “Imagine that you are on a ski slope with other skiers…that you are in Florida riding in an outboard motorboat, maybe even towing water-skiers. Imagine that you are riding a bicycle on a nice spring day. Imagine that you are a parent taking your son to a department store and that you notice he is fascinated by the toy tractors or tanks with rubber caterpillar treads.”

            Part 2:

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            “Now imagine that you pull the skis off but you are still on the ski slope. Imagine also that you remove the outboard motor from the motorboat, and you are no longer in Florida. And from the bicycle you remove the handle-bar and discard the rest of the bike. Finally, you take off the rubber treads from the toy tractor or tanks. This leaves only the following separate pieces: skis, outboard motor, handlebars and rubber treads.”

            Sounds crazy right?

            Yet, what do you imagine would be created from these parts?

            The answer:

            a Snowmobile!

            How to apply the Dialectical Method (Step-by-step guide)

            Step #1. Identify your thesis

            Your Thesis is your starting point or status-quo. This is where your thinking exists today.

            Step #2. Identify the antithesis

            The Antithesis is the mechanism for change. This is the opposing group or ideas that do not support the status-quo (your Thesis).

            In order for things to change, we must have some form of opposition. These ideas bring about change by clashing with the Thesis.

            Step #3. Synthesis (new thesis)

            When a Thesis and Antithesis clash, we get progress. This is a meeting of two groups bringing about a new and better process. However, this process never ends.

            Let’s examine two examples of this method:

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              Example #1

              • Thesis: Being
              • Antithesis: Nothing
              • Synthesis (New Thesis): Becoming

              Example #2

              • Thesis: People need to go to the bank to draw cash.
              • Antithesis: It’s not necessary to go to the bank to draw money.
              • Synthesis (New Thesis): Develop ATM to dispense cash at convenient locations.

              The reality behind this method

              The dialectical method becomes a continuous and unending mechanism for building on ideas.

              The truth is:

              The strongest ideas survive through the continuous dialectical process.

              “Truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.” – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

              This method shows us why we should never get stuck living in our comfortable lives. We should continue to evolve and adapt; continue to challenge our hidden biases and assumptions.

              After all,

              “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” – Charles Darwin

              Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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              Dr. Jamie Schwandt

              Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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              Published on January 16, 2019

              How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

              How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

              We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

              You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

              You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

              That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

              Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

              1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

              Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

              We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

              To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

              At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

              The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

              2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

              Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

              The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

              In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

              It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

              It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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              So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

              • Are you a great strategist?
              • Are you an effective planner?
              • Is Project Management your strength?
              • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
              • Are you the ideas person?
              • Is Implementation your strength?

              Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

              3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

              One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

              Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

              Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

              Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

              4. Take Time for Planning

              “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

              One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

              You can take the time to think about:

              • What’s the purpose of the project?
              • How Important is it?
              • When does it need to be delivered by?
              • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
              • What are the KPIs?
              • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
              • Who is working on this project?
              • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
              • What tolerances can I add in?
              • What are the review stages?
              • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

              Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

              5. Focus on Priorities

              Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

              Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

              One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

              1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
              2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
              3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
              4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

              James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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                The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

                If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

                If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

                6. Take Time Out

                To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

                If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

                Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

                In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

                Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

                7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

                Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

                I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

                Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

                If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

                8. Stop Multitasking

                Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

                So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

                When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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                If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

                9. Work in Blocks of Time

                To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

                I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

                Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

                Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

                Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

                Then take another 10-minute break.

                Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

                By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

                10. Get Rid of Distractions

                Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

                “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

                Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

                If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

                11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

                You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

                Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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                Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

                12. Take a Time Audit

                Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

                Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

                You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

                Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

                Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

                At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

                If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

                13. Protect Your Confidence

                It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

                When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

                Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

                When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

                Final Words

                A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

                The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

                If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

                Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

                Reference

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