Friday, January 26, 2007

Slow Thinking

Recently, I reviewed a training project that has been a success with everyone but its creator: me. I’ve looked over the material and, in classic nitpicking fashion, found any number of things that could be improved. As a writer, I’m used to discovering that last night’s brilliant draft is this morning’s piece of garbage and so the second thoughts were not a surprise.

What did shock me was how quickly the culprit could be identified:

I’d failed to think slowly.

That may sound strange. The ability to think quickly is usually a treasured ability but just as speed reading can gloss over the poetry of paragraphs, fast thinking can miss the little intangibles that elevate a product or service from A to A+.

Obviously, this depends upon the project. Speed is of the essence in emergency services. Slow thinking may not be an admirable quality in an ambulance driver. In many other endeavors, however, we can gain a great deal by slowing down the process. What should I have asked myself during the preparation process? A few items come to mind:

Am I simply assembling a bunch of interesting ingredients without considering the overall effect?

Am I excited about each component or is there a part that is just sort of “there?”

Does the material go to concerns that people discuss around a kitchen table or is it designed for a lecture hall? [Hint: Kitchen table is better.]

And finally:

If you were rating your level of enthusiasm about the project on a 1 to 10 scale with 10 being absolute enthusiasm and 1 being absolute lack of enthusiasm, where would it be? If it is below 10, what are the reasons?

An ancient Sufi Muslim saying probably put it best: “You think because you understand one you must understand two, because one and one make two. But you must understand and.”

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