Professional overthink causes us to think too long, and too hard, about solving problems (and other things). Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Especially if you are a professional who does not think things through, thoroughly, when problem-solving. Perhaps you should start thinking longer, and harder?
So, are you a professional overthinker?
Me, too. After all, how I (and you) think reflects how we both were trained. I am talking about straight-up professional overthink, a strong characteristic of STEM-trained design thinkers. You know who these people are. Not only do you hire overthinkers to consult on your behalf. You also attempt to work with, or sell to, them every day.
Professional overthink folks are design thinkers.
They are the “Them” in Us versus Them mindset. And without “Them” there are no remarkable client outcomes. Because “They” do not take shortcuts when seeking solutions.
Design thinkers are continuously curious about not only how things work, but also what happens when people, processes and equipment are integrated into existing and new systems. We are big picture thinkers, also capable of deconstructing the big picture into individual components.
It’s kind of scary to people who do not exercise their professional overthink genes. (Did you know that everyone has these genes?!)
Consider that design thinkers are the folks you hire to solve the problems which appear to be beyond your current professional comfort level. As a result, people who professionally overthink move you one millimeter outside your comfort zone. And, after all, that outcome is one goal of design thinking.
David Kelley, Founder of IDEO (and my absolute favorite design thinker), describes design thinking as follows. “Design thinking utilizes elements from the designer’s toolkit like empathy and experimentation to arrive at innovative solutions. By using design thinking, you make decisions based on what future customers really want instead of relying only on historical data or making risky bets based on instinct instead of evidence.”
On the other hand, professional overthink folks take their time before reaching a decision on the best possible solution. Which drives non-design thinkers crazy, because they “think” the overthinkers are wasting time.
First, design thinking keeps engineers from rushing too far ahead and over-designing and engineering solutions that no one really wants. Then, design thinking keeps your marketing and sales people from rushing ahead and marketing, selling and over-promising stuff to a non-receptive marketplace.
Often, the best design outcomes are accomplished when those engineers and those business folks sit down at the table and professionally overthink, together. The last time I checked, that process is called cross-functional collaboration. Interestingly, taking the time to continuously collaborate takes less time than it does to backtrack and rework rushed, ill-conceived solutions.
Ultimately, it, literally, pays to exercise professional overthink, even if it makes you just a little bit uncomfortable.
After all, that is what innovation is all about. If it’s comfortable, it is known. Then again, if it is not comfortable, well, then, you are sailing out of complacency towards not only new design horizons. You also are moving one millimeter outside your current comfort level, towards professional innovation.
Start moving one millimeter forward towards professional innovation, today.
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Babette Ten Haken, Founder & President of One Millimeter Mindset™ serves organizations as a corporate catalyst and innovative speaker, strategist, coach and storyteller. Babette’s One Millimeter Mindset™ Workshops and Speaking programs leverage collaboration to catalyze professional innovation, workforce engagement and customer retention, especially in challenging Industrial Internet of Things environments. Babette’s playbook of IIoT team collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. She is a member of SME, ASQ, SHRM and the National Speakers Association.
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