Free Your Mind, Huh?

January 8, 2016

 It’s such a clichéd comment and when I hear people say it, I take it with a grain of salt.  Most of the time when people make that comment to you, they are trying to convince you to think in a particular direction. I once took a class called, “Brainstorming” while I worked in the corporate world. Back in 80’s and 90’s, taking extracurricular classes like this were encouraged and there where budgets for employees to get training. It was one of the few classes I have ever taken at any level of schooling that I found useful in the real world.

Brainstorming is the basic task of recording as many ideas as possible for a solution to a problem. The trick is getting past the low hanging fruit of solutions and to generate a whole tree of solutions. The way to generate a whole tree of solutions is to create a list of unfiltered, unbiased, random associations along with words, phrases, thoughts and similar ideas and mind dump it. After you have exhausted that exercise, you begin the process of putting together ideas generated from the large list. When you begin pulling thoughts from the master list, that might generate even more food for thought. Sometimes you get to a place you had no idea would happen and the most critical and cynical minds can be part of the process. I still use these techniques twenty years later and have still own some of the course literature.

When it comes to sports, the teams that have the most success are the ones that try to break conventional thinking or do things that others are not. They look for even the subtlest strategies that look different and give them the slightest advantages. The coaches and players that have the capability to think outside of the conventional box of ideas can often find success.  For instance, there was a time in the NFL when the “Read Option” was the biggest headache for a defense to figure out. The Read Option was an offensive formation where the quarterback would hold the ball just long enough to either run, pass or hand off based upon the defensive positioning.  It took almost a whole football season before defensive strategies were invented to combat this formation. That is just one example of the many ideas that come and go in the world of sports strategy.

Thinking outside the box and using unconventional methods will bring you plenty of criticism and sometimes make you second guess yourself. The absolute truth is that some of the criticism is warranted and useful, but nothing ever evolves without free thinking and innovation.  When your mind gets stuck in the rut of routine and boredom, perform a brainstorm. Look it up on the internet or take a class and find out how easy it is to generate new ideas and solutions. The path to solutions is a lot easier when you are choosing from a multitude of possibilities. As the R&B band, En Vogue sang, “free your mind and the rest will follow.”