Give Your Problems Their Last ‘Writes’

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to enhance your problem solving skills. Reading time: 2:57.

           Two executives are tugging away at a vexing problem. It’s getting late in the day and both are frustrated. “What do you think?” says one. “Not sure,” responds the other. “Okay, here’s a way forward. She reaches into her purse and says: “Take two of these and call me in the morning.”

         Oh, what a headache! Both smiled at the two sharpened pencils. They knew those pencils would do what no aspirin could: help them think.

         After all, “writing is thinking on paper,”  as author William Zinsser notes in his book On Writing Well. Writing is proven method to organize your thoughts, establish your point of view, pose and defend your argument to make decisions and solve problems.

Indeed, as famed author John Updike observed that writing at its inner source “is a deeply comforting activity, an ordering and a purging and a bringing into the light what had been hidden an hour before.”

“I Know What I think When I See What I Say”

        Richard Nixon, writing in his book In the Arena, said: “The process (of writing) forced me to think through all aspects of the problem. It is only when you totally concentrate on a problem that new ideas come to you.”

      New ideas would come to  novelist William Faulkner the more he wrote: “I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.” And University of Michigan professor Kael Weick added: “I know what I think when I see what I say.” No wonder that author Paul Rand said his writing developed his sense of understanding of key design issues and “the byproduct is a book for other people.”

       Writing — like mortar — cements the thinking process.. It inspires ideas to form, plans to materialize and renderings to be realized. In fact, writing is much like building a house, according to Winston Churchill: “The technique is different, the materials are different, but the principle is the same. The foundation has to be laid, the data assembled and the premises must bear the weight of the conclusions.”

        And all of that takes a sharp mind and plenty of sharp pencils. Maybe there was a method to John Steinbeck’s madness when the famous author Of Mice and Men, would sharpen 24 pencils every morning to get ready for his workday early in his writing career. The finer the points on his pencils, the finer his points on paper. And the more pointed and precise his problem solving. The lesson for all of us is clear: Give your problems their last “writes” with pencil in hand.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Use your writing skills to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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