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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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              Last Updated on January 6, 2021

              14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

              14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

              Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

              In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

              For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

              For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

              Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

              Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

              Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

              How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

              Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

              1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

              Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

              For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

              2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

              Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

              Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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              Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

              3. Create a System

              Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

              This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

              You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

              Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

              Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

              4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

              We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

              If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

              Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

              Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

              5. Use a Ratings Scale

              Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

              Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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              It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

              6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

              This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

              You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

              You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

              7. Offer Feedback Forms

              Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

              First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

              Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

              You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

              8. Track Cost Effectiveness

              This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

              Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

              Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

              9. Use Self-Evaluations

              Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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              Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

              10. Monitor Time Management

              This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

              Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

                The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

                While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

                11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

                We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

                Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

                For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

                Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

                Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

                From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

                12. Utilize Peer Feedback

                This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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                Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

                Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

                It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

                13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

                When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

                Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

                Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

                14. Use an External Evaluator

                Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

                They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

                While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

                Final Thoughts

                These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

                The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

                The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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                Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

                Reference

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