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Weekly 3: Challenging Questions, Easy Ethics & Focusing Made Simple

Summary: Early Questions for Later Success. An Easy Test for Ethical Decision-making. 7 Steps to More

Idea Journal Weekly 3

January 7 · Issue #16 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Early Questions for Later Success. An Easy Test for Ethical Decision-making. 7 Steps to More Focus. (~5 min read)

#1. At the beginning of a project, make a list of “Challenges” to help ensure that you remain focused on the most important objectives.
Creativity consultant Todd Henry writes in his book The Accidental Creative that many projects often lack clarity on what they’re really trying to accomplish, and therefore result in “painful, late-project course corrections.”
For Henry, this is because too little time was spent identifying the most important problems – a main problem and a set of subproblems – that the project is trying to solve.
To avoid wasting expensive resources like time and energy later on, he recommends beginning a project by making a list of Challenges: four to six questions identifying those problems that need to be solved in order to complete the project successfully.
For example, if you were tasked with developing and releasing a product called “X” you might begin with the following:
Project name: X
  • What is the unique functionality of X?
  • What would make X appealing to millennial customers?
  • How can our messaging differentiate X in the market?
  • How can we keep production costs for X low?
Henry points out that writing Challenges in the form of short, easy-to-understand questions for each of the projects you’re working on allows the mind to do what it does best: find useful patterns.
#2. To help ensure that a given decision is as ethical as possible, use the “Four-Way Test.”
Members of Rotary International, the nonpartisan and nonsectarian international service organization established in 1905, are dedicated to solving the “world’s most persistent issues,” such as fighting disease and promoting peace.
To help guide ethical decision-making in their work, they apply the Four-Way Test to each of their actions by asking the following four questions:
  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better relationships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
#3. To help limit distractions, so that you can focus on the most valuable activities in your work, use the “Seven Rs of Simplification.”
Author and productivity consultant Brian Tracy writes in his book Focal Point that the ever-increasing number of opportunities, responsibilities, and tasks can be hard to manage.
This is in part because of a tendency he refers to as “Meyer’s Law”: it’s a simple task to make things complex, but a complex task to make things simple.
And yet, not all tasks and activities are created equally.
To help focus on those that are most important, he recommends using the following Seven Rs of Simplification:
Rethinking: Whenever you feel overwhelmed, with too much to do and too little time, imagine you’re an outside consultant looking at your situation, and ask yourself: Could there be a better way?
Re-evaluating: When you get new information, pause and re-evaluate your situation “based on the way it really is today, right now, not the way you wish it were, or the way it might have been in the past.”
Reorganizing: What can you change to try and get more outputs from the same quality and quantity of inputs?
Restructuring: How can you redirect your energy, money, time, and other resources to the activities that are responsible for the top 20% of value or profit?
Re-engineering: The goal here is to find newer, cheaper, faster, and easier ways to accomplish a given task, and still achieve your desired result. To do this, list out all the steps required to complete the task, from start to finish, and then set a goal to reduce the number of steps by 30%.
Reinventing: Practice zero-based thinking by asking yourself: If I were not doing it this way, knowing what I now know, would I start it up again this way?
Regaining Control: Take complete responsibility for setting new goals and plans, and for making new decisions and committing to new actions. ”You don’t wait for good things to happen to you. You go out and make them happen.”
Quote of the Week
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
- Henry David Thoreau in Walden
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