Many people over our lifetime have challenged our thinking and have invited us to think in new ways.  They helped clarify our vision for possible futures and often taught us to make a bigger difference in the lives of others. 

Someone I invited into my life to challenge my thinking is Tim Hurson.  I met Tim through social media and have since had the pleasure of communicating with him in numerous ways.  Tim is an author and an international speaker who, in part, helps companies and groups work more productively.  Here is Tim’s biography: http://www.timhurson.com/bio.php  

I showed Tim the EHHS top ten list of shared values.  He liked the list, but suggested that “creativity” might be placed a little higher in the ranking (Check out the Shared Values post and people’s comments if you have not done so yet).  I am fascinated by Tim’s observation. 

During the EHHS Divisional meeting at the beginning of the semester, I had a number of quotes playing on a slide show with the faces of the authors.  The quote from Tim was, “When the current is strong, treading water doesn’t even keep you in the same place.”  I felt this quote addressed our current budget situation and addressed the rapidly changing territory around standards that several programs are facing.

Tim is the author of Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking.  I appreciate the power behind a number of approaches from this book when helping groups find better solutions to problems.  One example centers on generating new ideas.  Tim says that most of the time, “brainstorming is brain drizzle.”  In his book, he presents the concept of “reproductive thinking” and “productive thinking.”  

Reproductive thinking is seen when a question is asked and the conditioned response answers are given.  These are answers that may have been used in the past, ones that people grab onto quickly because they are comfortable or familiar (they worked in the past).  Unfortunately, while the problem may seemingly be “solved,” the familiar solution leads to the end of thinking and better approaches are never discovered. 

Productive thinking comes after all of the conditioned response answers are given.  Tim writes about breaking deep-thinking sessions into thirds when seeking solutions to problems.  The first third usually contains reproductive thinking, the second third might have some good ideas in it, but the final third is where you find the gold.  Creative, out-of-the-box thinking only comes after reproductive thinking is out of the way.  Tim once said, “The questions from which you learn the most are the ones you don’t know the answers to.”  This statement invites you into the final third of the thinking process where neurons have to sweat. 

We have a number of exciting challenges before us, some without clear answers.  For example the budget problem doesn’t have a clear answer and reproductive thinking will not solve the problem.  If you were at the College’s Town Meeting last week, you heard me talk about new programs in our division that range from certificate programs to graduate degree programs.  I am aware of six, in addition to the new Curriculum & Instruction program that is ready to go to the Faculty Senate, that are in various stages of development.  This is one way in which we will not tread water.  There also are several programs in which the curriculum is being revised.  This is another response to not treading water.  There are many other ways of not treading water by diving into creative, productive thinking.  The faculty has the power to do this.

Over the next month, I have been asked to facilitate some program meetings to examine the way we do things and to see if there is a better way.  I will be using some of Tim’s techniques during the meetings.  He asked me to let him know how it goes and given the great group of people I work with (that’s you!), I already know the report will be good. 

I am open to new ideas and am excited to hear about those you find in the final third of the thinking process.  Work with each other in new ways to imagine creative programming and engaging teaching approaches.  Our commitment to life-long learning and to finding new ways of moving forward will serve as an important model for our students.   

The current is strong and treading water will result in falling behind.  I know, however, that together we can imagine new solutions that will propel us into a strong and bright future.  One of the drop boxes for new ideas is between my ears, or share ideas in the comment section below for all to wrestle with.