Thinking Spaces

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You now know that it is your responsibility to take charge of your thinking and direct your action, but how exactly do you do that? Most of us live out our lives, thinking reactively to our environment and the experiences we are exposed to.

We have feelings that make us think and feel like the world is controlling us. When we allow ourselves to feel like this, we have no control over our experiences, giving us a flow and feeling of negativity that we can often drown in.

It is easy to allow your experience to determine your feelings, but you now know that you can consciously choose how you experience life. You can choose to live it the way you want, by choosing what thoughts you allow yourself to attach to and invest in.

Whilst we can’t always control our thoughts, we can control what thoughts we hold onto and attach ourselves to.

“Attaching to this thought is a choice.”

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In our last few sessions, we explored some tools that support you in becoming aware of your thinking and resulting feelings. The technique of ‘Release’ was about finding ways to let go of emotions and memories that aren’t serving you. When we choose which thoughts to attach to, we are no longer controlled by our brains and our bodies.

Joe Dispenser’s video here explains so well how our bodies can actually start to control us and lock us into a repetitive life if we are not consciously choosing our thoughts.


This video is a powerful reminder of how important it is for us to find ways to change the way we think and what emotions we allow ourselves to hold onto. 

Let’s now explore some different ways of thinking and how they can support and unlock different areas of our brain and assist us to direct our own actions and behaviours to result in us experiencing the things we want in life rather than the things we don’t.

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The HBDI model illustrates to us that we can use our entire brain and that each area of thinking has a different focus and aligning strength. Exploring this a little deeper, when we look at our brains, we can shift between detailed review, in the blue quadrant (A) this represents drilling down into facts and figures, evidence-based thinking, a space that is great for coming up with answers, and solutions to problems. In the green space (B) the level of detail comes out in steps, processes, ways of doing things to get things done, the green supports the yellow (D) to achieve the steps required to attain the bigger picture. 

On the other hand, we have more expansive thinking; yellow (D) enables us to open our thinking, expand our horizons, access new ideas and ways of thinking about things. Yellow is about expansive thinking, thinking that has no restraint like the blue and green quadrants. The Red is also expansive but exploring thinking within an empathetic lens, thinking that supports people and feelings. As we know what you tap into the emotions, you achieve robust buy-in within our brains.

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In life and at work, we need expansive and detailed thinking. Each style of thinking supports us in different ways and situations. For example, if you were to write a book, the yellow and red space would be ideal, to come up with the book and the storey. 

You might shift into the green space when you start to sketch out the storyline, storyboarding it. When you write the book you might be playing primarily in the yellow and red space, referring back to your green map. 

When you edit the book, you could be looking through the deep blue lens, where you’re pulling out the logic of the story, how well it flows and makes sense, you might again draw on the green so that the sequence behind the story makes sense and the conclusion is comprehensive.

A famous writer once said – you cannot creatively write and edit in the same space. It takes two different thinking spaces. Writer’s block often results because thinking in multiple areas at once is challenging to our brains and often will stop our progress.

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This example illustrates to us that we can use the HBDI as a metaphor to help us direct our thinking. We can be mindful of what we are trying to achieve and what type of thinking we need to draw on to achieve it?

I.e. Financial reporting is a detailed, logical, factual task; it’s a ‘blue’ thinking space.

With that knowledge, we find ways to shift our thinking into the preferred quadrant to help us better achieve the things we want to do.

 Critical and Creative Thinking

Another way to think about the different thinking spaces is through the lens of critical and creative thinking. The blue and green spaces sit primarily in the critical thinking space and the red and yellow in the creative thinking spaces. 

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking means thinking from an analytical perspective, zeroing in on the most critical aspects of your ideas, evaluating your ideas and making sound judgements based on all the facts. Critical thinking allows you the opportunity to intervene in your thinking methods and allow yourself to understand the real basis behind your ideas.

As a business leader, it is effortless to get emotionally attached to your business concepts and ideas. However, critical thinking techniques prompt you to start asking questions and defining the real roots behind your ideas.

For example, ask yourself, what is driving this idea? Is this idea coming from an emotional position, or is there logic behind the idea? Then, evaluate the logic behind your concepts, identify the purpose or goal of the situation and then, examine the bias you have i.e. “what do I personally believe about the situation?”. Once you have identified your own bias, consider the implications of your available options logically. i.e. “what are the consequence if we choose to go down this path?‟

Critical thinking is the logical, sequential disciplined process of rationalising, analysing, evaluating, and interpreting information to make informed judgments and/or decisions.

 The critical thinking space focuses on logic.

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Developing Creative Thinking Skills

Creative thinking is looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective to conceive of something new or original.

Some of the best examples of creative thinking skills may include lateral thinking, visual reading, out-of-the-box thinking, copywriting, artistic creativity, problem-solving, analytical mind, and divergent thinking.

Learning to generate and apply new ideas in specific contexts, see existing situations in a new way, identify alternative explanations, and see or make new links that create a positive outcome. This includes combining parts to form something original, sifting and refining ideas to discover possibilities, constructing theories and objects, and acting on intuition. The products of creative endeavour can involve complex representations and images, investigations and performances, digital and computer-generated output, or occur as virtual reality.

Concept formation is the mental activity that helps us compare, contrast and classify ideas, objects, and events. Concept learning can be concrete or abstract and is closely allied with metacognition. What has been learnt can be applied to future examples. It underpins the organising elements.

The creative thinking space focuses on emotion.

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Creative Thinking tools 


Brainstorming is a creative thinking technique to develop a range of ideas, find a solution to a specific problem, challenge or meet an objective with a new idea.

A great tool for generating business ideas or innovations!

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The keys to successful brainstorming;

  1. Define the topic, objective or outcome and make sure you’re focusing on what you are looking to achieve rather than getting caught up in the problem itself.
  2. Although you can brainstorm alone, a brainstorming session will be dramatically improved if you grab a diverse range of people! Brainstorming is really practical when you bring together a range of people that hold different ways of looking at the topic (perspective). People with different experiences, skills and knowledge levels can also assist in supporting a dynamic brainstorming session.
  3. Do your research on the topic before your session – the more you can gather information surrounding the topic the more likely you are to have unique ideas storm up in your brainstorming session.
  4. Move your body – neuroscience tells us that if we get up and move around, our brains are more likely to create neural connections (generate new ideas). Make your brainstorming session a hands-on practical experience – move around! 
  5. Become Judgement Free – for creativity to flow we need to be in a positive headspace, free of judgement. Ensure that you create a safe space for you and your brainstorming team to flow with the ideas, choose a positive motto or mantra, ‘no idea is a bad idea’. List them all and you can refine them later.
  6. Review  – once your idea generation has run out, move into the review phase and reflect on which ideas align best with your original objectives, consider their feasibility, desirability, and market timing. You will be drawing on some critical thinking skills here.
  7. Refine – once you have a few relevant ideas you can move into a new phase of turning these ideas into frameworks, structures or models which you can sketch out in further detail.

Anything goes, write down every idea you can think of and then keep the logical ideas for evaluation.

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Mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness, meditation, and alike are buzz words of our current world, but mindfulness aims to notice or become aware of our thoughts rather than let them ‘be’ who we are. The fact that we can notice our thoughts means they are not us, the more we notice them, the stronger our ability is to choose if they serve us or not. 

You consciously or unconsciously choose the thoughts that you attach to. It’s our thoughts that trigger feelings and resulting chemicals in our bodies. Our emotions and their chemical composition are what drives our decisions and behaviours.

Once you’re able to master the art of choosing what thoughts you attach to, you are empowered to choose behaviours and actions that move you closer to achieving goals.

Not sure how to start? Youtube has some great videos, there are also some really great apps out there, like Headspace and Calm.


Don’t place a limit on what your ideas are; daydreaming can be a really effective creative thinking tool. For example, just imagine for a moment that you were a leader in an ideal business, can you start to see it in your mind’s eye? 

  • What does it look like?
  • What does it feel like?
  • Where is it?
  • How big is it?
  • What are you doing in this business?
  • Who are you with?

In the idea generation phase, daydreaming can be a handy tool and often creates the most innovative and successful ideas.

Using Drawing to daydream

Drawing or sketching out ideas is about starting with a scribble or a visual map and fleshing it out from there.

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Critical Thinking tools 

Pestle Analysis

Also known as PESTLE, PESTEL, PESTLIED, STEEPLE, SLEPT and LONGPESTLE, is a simple and widely used tool that helps you analyse the Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural, and Technological changes in your business environment. This enables you to understand the “big picture” forces of change that you’re exposed to, and, from this, take advantage of the opportunities that they present. 

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Here is an example of how to do it, thanks to Mind Tools;

  • Follow these steps to analyse your business environment and the opportunities and threats that it presents.
  • Use Pestle to brain dump the changes happening around you. Use the prompts below to guide your questioning, and tailor the questions to suit the specific needs of your business.
  • Brainstorm opportunities are arising from each of these changes.
  • Brainstorm threats or issues that they could cause.
  • Take appropriate action.

Mind Tools offer a really good example, they have a great worksheet that guides you through these steps.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and so a SWOT Analysis is a technique for assessing these four aspects of your business.

You can use SWOT Analysis to make the most of what you’ve got, to your organisation’s best advantage. And you can reduce the chances of failure, by understanding what you’re lacking and eliminating hazards that would otherwise catch you unawares. Much like the Pestle Analysis in the SWOT your job is to brain dump based on your findings and research responses to each of the different topics about a situation. I.e. the SWOT of your marketing or business position. You could also use a SWOT analysis as an exciting way to evaluate your thinking preferences critically.

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Critical and Creative Thinking Tools

Some tools will empower you to shift between all thinking spaces. Design thinking is a framework that enables this at a high level; here are a few more.

Six Thinking Hats

The six thinking hats concept allows you to generate business ideas from a range of creative and critical perspectives and tie these all together.

Six Thinking Hats is a creative thinking system designed by Edward de Bono which describes a tool for group discussion and individual thinking involving six coloured hats. “Six Thinking Hats” is associated with the idea of parallel thinking. 

It provides a means for groups to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way, and in doing so to think together more effectively. Have a play with answering some of these questions as you read through.

The idea is to put on a different hat and change the way you think about a topic or idea, in this case, consider the idea/s behind what it is you are trying to achieve and think as much as you can in each of the different spaces;

White Hat – Neutrality (what are the facts?)

Red Hat – Feeling (what is your gut instinct saying?)

Black Hat – Negative Judgement (what things may go wrong with the idea?)

Yellow Hat – Positive Judgement (what are all of the benefits to the idea?)

Green Hat – Creative thinking (what other ideas can be generated if we run with this and leave no limitations?)

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Common blockers to creative thinking & critical thinking

Every business and individual within the business will experience thinking blocks at some stage. Identifying the blocks may assist you to overcome them. Some thinking blocks may be:

  • Unconstructive attitude – tending to focus predominantly on the potential risks or negativity of the idea, concept or topic.
  • Anxiety or Stress – being stressed, tired, anxious will often limit your ability to process and produce new and innovative ideas.
  • Fear of Failure – People often stop themselves from thinking in new and innovative ways out of a fear they will present as a fool or their idea will be a failure
  • Perception – Many people often have preconceived ideas of how one should behave or think, for example, you may think, ‘play according to the rules’ or ‘be practical’, or ‘if it works why change it?’

Basically, all of these are unproductive states of mind.