Creative Thinking, Problem Solving & Decision Making the Bill Gates Way

Outside of the box thinking

A few years ago, I read a CNN Money/Fortune story on how Bill Gates engaged in creative thinking.  Twice a year, he’d set aside a week to get away to a secluded cabin to do nothing but read and think.  He called it, appropriately, “Think Week.”

He brought food, a few of his favorite snacks and beverages, a notebook, a computer, and little else except for a hundred or more reports from Microsoft employees on new opportunities to explore or big challenges to resolve.

He dedicated himself to take that entire week to read each report and think about each challenge or opportunity that was represented.

Let’s face it, from time to time we need to muster up every bit of creative thinking ability that we can find in order to solve a big problem, explore a new opportunity, or make a tough decision. For some, this process comes easy.  For others, it’s a real chore.

Now, neither you nor I are Bill Gates (unless you’re reading this, Bill) and we may or may not have the luxury of taking a week to get away from it all and do nothing but read and think.  But I think each of us, in our own way, can put this type of “Think Week” thinking into action.

Here are some take-aways for me:

  • There is power in getting away from all distractions in order to focus in on the topic, or task, at hand.  If you’ve got a problem to solve or opportunity to explore, set aside a chunk of time to do nothing but think about it.
  • We can’t all take a “Think Week” to do nothing but read and think, but most of us can swing a “Think Weekend,” a “Think Day,” or a “Think Half-Day” once or twice a year, or as often as needed.  What is it about setting aside a block of time?  It frees and focuses our mind, helps us think outside of the box, and gets our creative juices flowing.
  • It is important to keep a good record of our thoughts and ideas during this set-aside time to think.  One of my favorite creative thinking tools is a mind map, and my favorite mind mapping app is Mindmeister.

The next time you’re faced with a huge challenge or opportunity, or you need do some problem solving or come up with some creative ideas, make some time for creative thinking the Bill Gates way with your own version of “Think Week.”

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