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“Thinking For A Change” by John Maxwell  304 pages $14.99 Center Street, March 25, 2003
“Thinking For A Change”
by John Maxwell

304 pages
Center Street, March 25, 2003

Opinion: Narrow thinking puts business in a box

Posted online
Best-selling author and leadership expert John Maxwell writes an empowering book with wide-ranging appeal in “Thinking For A Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work.”

According to Maxwell, anyone who wants to do well must first learn to think well, and that requires developing the right mental habits.

Each of the 11 mental habits is packed with basic guidance replete with quotes, stats and illustrations to drive home the point. It is vintage Maxwell for readers who like his style.

There are a number of “takeaways,” including:
• Thinking rightly is hard work. Maxwell makes the point that changed thinking takes concerted, consistent efforts. He quotes Albert Einstein: “Thinking is hard work; that’s why so few do it.” Changing how we think often requires changing our beliefs, expectations and behaviors.
• Engage in big-picture thinking. Among his tips, the author suggests that bigger thinking is possible when we tolerate ambiguity, get varied perspectives and don’t fall in love with the status quo. Playwright Victor Hugo said, “A small man is made up of small thoughts.” If right thinking is hard work, then big-picture thinking may be harder work still, but the payoff for doing so can be enormous according to Maxwell.
• Focused thinking brings significant benefit. Harnessing our thoughts and energy around a singular problem or opportunity, long enough and consistently enough, will increase clarity and improve our outcomes.
• Possibility thinking drives energy. Maxwell says possibility thinking draws people and opportunities to us. Unless we practice possibility thinking, we are destined to mediocre, negative, backward-looking and pessimistic perspectives of the world.
• Reflective thinking is essential. Taking sufficient time to reflect on our situation gives us an opportunity to put that situation into proper perspective. Anyone can practice reflective thinking by setting aside the time, concentrating on the issues, eliminating distractions and, perhaps most critical, asking good questions.
• Shared thinking is a good discipline. Collaboration, as Maxwell points out, has many advantages, namely thoughts or ideas we haven’t considered previously. This reminds me of the adage that there’s nothing more dangerous than an idea – if it’s the only one you’ve got. Plurality of thought helps ensure that we’ve assessed our situation from all essential angles. Tolerating, even inviting dissonance, is even more productive because it challenges a preconceived notion and an engrained bias toward agreement.

Noted management theorist Gary Hammel said the past is becoming a less pertinent precedent for the future. The turbulence and change we face today requires more thinking, as well as more diverse opinions, not less. If leaders would seek out, even encourage, dissonance and professional disagreement as a means to better decision-making, it could make for more competitive and profitable operations. Unfortunately, many leaders still see those with the most experience or the highest rank as possessing the highest idea value.

Many small-business owners, department managers or even executives are still locked into an old hierarchy. They hold the trump card on ideas and use it whenever opinions don’t conform to their personal wishes. History bulges with examples of leaders who led their teams defiantly in a foolish direction because they held on too tight and were too limiting.

Bottom line
There’s a veritable gold mine of thoughtful nuggets in “Thinking For A Change.” It should make for a better day if you read it like a personal guide, which may be the best way to absorb this fast-moving yet perceptive book. While “Thinking” hasn’t received the notoriety of other more recent Maxwell books, I consider it one of his best.

Springfield-based consultant Mark Holmes speaks nationally on increasing employee and customer retention and improving employee performance. He is the author of “Wooing Customers Back” and “The People Keeper,” and writes a blog at He can be reached at[[In-content Ad]]


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