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How to Think Differently

How to Think Differently

April 18, 2013

Some of the best thinking occurs when you’re not thinking about what you should think about. Does your head hurt yet? Good.

You may or may not be thinking “what does thinking have to do with marketing and communicating?” Well, a lot. We form patterns with our thoughts, which then structures our reality, which impacts how we do our work. I’m not a psychologist. And I’m not an expert in thinking, either.

I’m simply a writer and marketer who enjoys thinking. Here’s why:

Creativity and strategy happen when you think differently. Because if you want to think differently, you can’t think like everyone else. Your thoughts will be average, which means average ideas. And while I appreciate and respect the unremarkable, I like to shake things up.


Photo credit: PropagandaTimes

Here are some ideas for how to think differently. Don’t steal them. Or you’ll think just like me.

Kidding. Here you go:

1. Turn off the news

The news is designed to drag you down. And it dictates how to think like the rest of the world.

If you’re a regular reader, you already know my thoughts on fast media. I’m not a fan. And it’s one of the reasons why I don’t have cable. Because we shouldn’t have to subject ourselves to one particular way of thinking when the world is so complex. Fast media doesn’t enable us to question or comment on facts. This type of news is passively consumed, which can lead to passive acceptance.

Active thinking happens more frequently with narrowcasting. “Narrowcasting” rejects the constraints imposed by a monolithic, broadcast approach. It’s why Twitter is one of my favorite ways to find and share information. I do not have to interact with anyone who goes against my core values. While this may seem narrow-minded to some, it’s quite the opposite. You get to pick and choose people to follow because you deem their thoughts and tweets valuable.

I just hope Twitter stays valuable, and doesn’t become yet another homogenous and sanitized mass media channel.

2. Get on Quora

“Why do some people prefer to spend time on Quora rather than Facebook?”  A simple question, answered in so many different ways. One of my favorites:

  • Facebook — small talk in a loud club. The music is thumping, the lights are flashing, you have to shout to get attention. No history, no lasting meaning.
  • Quora — conversations in a tea house. Occasional debate. Serendipity: you can eavesdrop on some fascinating insights. People come back, the shadow of the future looms big.

The interactions on Quora are far more interesting than what my high school friend from ten years ago had for yesterday’s dinner. No offense to any high school friends from ten years ago who are reading this. You’re still great. I just don’t find you interesting enough to hang out with you on Facebook.

Quora challenges our preconceived notions. It encourages us to think towards the future, instead of focusing on the past.

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3. Get uncomfortable. 

There are those that are more comfortable:

1. When things stay the same

2. When things change

Which one are you? Now picture how you would think if you were the opposite. That’ll shake up your thinking.

I’m more comfortable when things change. I prefer to constantly evolve. I build things. I start projects, grow them, and quickly move on to the next. The mundane makes me uncomfortable. If it starts to feel like Groundhog Day, I begin questioning my existence.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 9.23.24 PM

the card I gave to my husband for Valentine’s Day. romantic, eh? 🙂

Much of our society is based on making sure no one ever sees your weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Because it makes people feel uncomfortable. Many people like to shy away from this. But I thrive off uncomfortable awkwardness. Really.

Why? Honesty, although hard to hear sometimes, makes us think. Which is one of the reasons why I try to be as honest as I can when I write. Because when we’re honest, we can reflect. And when we can reflect, we can learn from each other. There’s beauty in that.

4. Expose what you’re bad at

We expose what we’re good at because it makes us comfortable. Like this case study that shows how my client’s iPhone app ranked in the Top 100, with over 845,000 active apps in the marketplace. I’m proud of this project. But I don’t need to tell you the good stuff. Because the good stuff doesn’t make me uncomfortable.

What makes me uncomfortable is telling you what I suck at. I’m horrible at math and can be overly empathetic (which I’ve learned to turn off). I’m also terrible at hiding how I feel. Maybe that’s just the Jersey in me?

Exposing what we’re bad at allows us to see holes in how we think and act. You can’t be great at everything. The sooner you can become aware of your weaknesses, the faster you can balance your style with the opposite approach.

5. Try out opposite day

Remember opposite day when you were a kid? There’s no reason it should be reserved only for kids. Bigger isn’t always better. Because small can actually make your brand big.

What are some ways that you think differently? Please comment below.