CMYK Thinking…

…well, almost.  This blog is about how to use four distinct colours to make sure your thinking is fully formed and robust.  This means that, even if you’re just in a meeting with yourself, you can have four, highly-intelligent, thinking counsellors helping you come up with a workable, practical plan to move you forwards towards your goals.

I’ve chosen this title to catch your attention and because anyone with an inkjet printer or an understanding of colour printing will know that we need at least Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (the technical term for Black) to create a full colour process that represents the visual world in all its richness.  If any one colour is missing, the results are bleached out and bland.  They fail to capture the imagination of the observer.  They are unlikely to inspire action.

In a similar way, we need at least four thinking styles to represent in the rich inner world of thought in all its variety.  In practice, using a Yellow ink to represent a style of thinking would be indistinct, which is why I use commonly available Black, Blue, Red and Green inks in my ThINKpen® process.  (Computer users will be familiar with the RGB abbreviation – but this misses true black.)  You’ll be able to buy a four-colour pen with these specific inks in any good stationery store and then you’ll be ready to change the world from the back of a napkin!

The process celebrates four distinct yet complementary thinking styles:

  • The Analytical Thinking Style
  • The Action-focused Thinking Style
  • The Ecological, holistic Thinking Style
  • The Creative and expansive Thinking Style.

To represent these, I use the following colours:

  • The factual “black-and-white” thinking style of the Analyst is represented by the Black think.  Think “Black Box” data-focused thinking.
  • The task-orientated, directive and urgent action-focus is represented by the Red think.  Think of the Red often used on action-focused road signs – and the red urgency of a fire engine.
  • The ecological, consequence and people focus is represented by the Green think.  Just think of the usual link of green to ecology.  This offers us balance and the long-term perspective.
  • The imagination and expansive thinking that lifts our thoughts is represented by the Blue think.  Just think of “Blue Sky” thinking – possibility thinking.

As “wielder of the pen” you become the chairperson in your Board of Thinkers – overseer of your own personal Think-Tank.  This means you can become your own strategic consultancy, or Ad agency, or trouble-shooting executive team.

The order of the inks will differ from task to task, but the need to use all four inks will remain as a guarantee of full-spectrum thinking – the assurance of a full-colour print out of your vision.

The roles are clear.  When you use the Black think, you gather only facts and data.  It’s as plain as seeing the situation in black and white.  There’s no emotion here – you’re the scientist, the analyst, the architect.  Facts not fantasy.

When you use the Red think, you are focused on outcomes, action steps, commitments.  When we write with red we answer questions such as, “What is the purpose of this meeting?” “Why are we doing this?” and later in the meeting, “What steps do we need to take to achieve our outcome?”  “Who is responsible for each step?”  “When will each step be achieved by?”

The Green think takes a step back to get a broader perspective.  When we commit green pen to paper we are answering questions such as, “What will be the consequences of this course of action?”  “What will be the human cost?”  “If we say ‘Yes’ to this plan, what will we necessarily have to say ‘No’ to?”  “How aligned is this proposed plan with our values and beliefs?”  “How does our plan make a contribution to the World or our community?”  “How will this process inspire our people and garner their commitment?”  “Why would people say ‘Yes!’ to our ideas?”

The Blue think generates the ‘Blue Sky’ thinking of ideas, options, alternatives, hypotheses.  Where the Black think may outline risks, costs and ‘realities’, the Blue think sketches out possibilities.

Thus, if you were to simply use this four think process, you could stimulate your own mind to take into account the facts, the opportunities, the consequences, and the realistic actions of any topic you focused on… all with one pen!

I bet you can’t wait to put pen to paper!

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