Playing Two Thinking Roles Can Ignite Your Thinking

Quite a while ago, I used to do a lot of consulting using Creative Problem Solving. A friend, Jean Moroney, applies CPS to help you get your thinking jump started.  I’m including information on Jean’s upcoming ” Thinking Tactics Workshops,” as well as her latest write up on “Playing Two Thinking Roles Can Ignite Your Thinking.”

The teal copy is Jean’s.

Upcoming Thinking Tactics Workshops

Sign up by July 19 and save $100 on the cost, and help ensure these are a “go”:

Chicago, September 18, 2010

San Francisco, September 25, 2010

There are no cookbook solutions to real-life problems. To tackle life’s challenges, you need a mental toolkit so you can choose the right tool for the situation. The right tool helps you tap your own
knowledge bank to solve problems faster, make better decisions, and communicate more effectively. Such a toolkit is what you get from Jean Moroney’s all-day workshop on Thinking Tactics.

Thinking Tactics is scheduled in:

Chicago, Sept 18:

San Francisco, Sept. 25:

Each of these workshops needs 10 people to commit by Juy 19 at the ultra-early price of $275.

Questions? Call or email Jean Moroney at 212-972-9495 or print out the 8-page brochure:

Need a sample class to decide? Attend the freebie preview teleclass, “Jump Start Your Thinking,” next held 7/17/10.

Playing Two Thinking Roles Can Ignite Your Thinking

Here’s a surprisingly effective technique that can pry information loose from your brain and ignite your thinking when you’re stalled:
The “Q&A Technique.” [1]

Here’s the technique:

Write down a question you are puzzling over. (“How” and “Why” questions are particularly suitable.) Blurt out an answer without
censoring. Then blurt out an unself-conscious follow-up question.

Then another answer. Keep writing out question and answer, without pausing or second-guessing, until you reach some closure.

Here’s an example:

Q: How am I going to get this report done soon?
A: That depends on what “soon” means.

Q: What constitutes “soon”?
A: Today?

Q: Is it realistic to get it done today?
A: No.

Q: What would be a realistic timeline?
A: Well, I think I can realistically expect to have it completely
edited and ready to go Thursday. Wednesday might be cutting it

Q: How are you going to get the report completely finished by
A: Draft today, get the sidebar blurbs drafted today and tomorrow,
Wednesday for editing and review. That leaves Thursday for any

You may feel this example to be a little subjective. Fortunately, the only person who needs to follow the Q&A is the person doing the
thinking. But I hope you also see that the questioning process quickly uncovers vague issues (“what constitutes soon?”) and
mistaken ideas (“today?”). It helps you zero in on what you really need to be thinking about.

The Q&A process can’t create information from thin air. It works when you start with a question you “should” be able to answer, but
you feel stuck. That’s when having a conversation with yourself playing two separate roles–naive questioner and blunt answerer–
helps you clarify the issues.

To make it work, play the roles to the hilt. As the answerer, take a frank, direct attitude, simply blurting out responses without worrying how they might look. No censoring. As the questioner, ask simple curiosity questions, following up on a term or idea in the previous answer. Keep the questions friendly and open-ended.

Don’t worry about asking obvious or “dumb” questions.

When you play the two roles this way, you eliminate the performance pressure that can freeze your thinking. Playing the role of a naive, curious questioner, you give yourself permission to raise issues and to challenge yourself. Playing the role of blunt answerer, you give yourself emotional distance from the issues.

These are two mental sets–the curious and the blunt–that you need to be able to adopt at will and switch between during thinking.

Playing the “roles” helps you make the switch to the appropriate mental set.

If you have trouble getting into the two mindsets, some people find it helpful to heighten the separation between the roles by physical means. You can use two colors of ink for questioner and answerer. Or you can set up two chairs, one for questioner and one for answerer, and then act out the two roles aloud–moving between the chairs as you change perspectives.

Is this a trick? Not really. When you are feeling stuck on a question that you “should” be able to figure out, you are almost certainly shutting down your subconscious databanks with censoring. What you need is some combination of frankness and curiosity to counter the blocks. It just so happens that ad libbing two roles, the curious questioner and the blunt answerer, is an easy, familiar way to make that important mental adjustment.

[1] I learned this technique from Marcia Yudkin’s CD set:
“Become a More Productive Writer.”

The teal copy is Jean’s.

Finalist in the Writing and Publishing category of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards,
“$uccess, Your Path to a Successful Book,”

5 Responsesto “Playing Two Thinking Roles Can Ignite Your Thinking”

  1. Hi, i heard your blog in the 7 pm radioshow on BBC Radio london, they built a show about writing a blog and web 2.0. Immediately after the radioshow i’ll hit the trail to your postage about Playing Two Thinking Roles Can Ignite Your Thinking Success, Your Path to a Successful Book. Excellent posting buddy! I hits the point – Its great to notice simply an individual blog author from a lot i checked out who is familiar with what he’s writing about! Stay on your way.

    • Maralyn says:

      I’m glad you liked the post. The material on the workshops and the two thinking roles is credited to Jean Moroney. I did co-author, Success, Your Path to a Successful Book. That was co-authored with Brenda C. Hill.

      Since I’m a advocate of creative thinking and creative problem solving, I like a great deal of what Jean covers in her writing and workshops.

      Maralyn D. Hill

  2. Amiable brief and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Thank you as your information.

  3. You can definitely see your enthusiasm in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren?ˉt afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

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