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Winning the Brain Game

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Winning the Brain Game

Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

When you’re trying to puzzle out a problem, your thinking can fail in seven predictable ways.

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Editorial Rating



  • Scientific
  • Applicable
  • For Beginners


When you try to puzzle out a problem, your thinking can fail in seven predictable ways, such as leaping to conclusions, failing to ask the right questions and “self-censoring.” Strategy and innovation consultant Matthew E. May, an award winning author, says you can avoid becoming stuck in automatic thought patterns or prejudices if you recognize these relatively familiar, common cognitive errors and frame your problems carefully. May condenses research about thought patterns into straightforward, basic advice that can help you avoid sabotaging yourself. getAbstract recommends his lessons to executives and managers at all levels who are relatively new to the field of cognitive errors.


Solving Problems

In 2005, author Matthew E. May worked with 12 bomb technicians from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to help them prepare for new forms of terrorism. The approaches the LAPD once used to counter terrorism had stopped working well because the nature of terrorism had changed: Modern terrorists often function without leaders and act unpredictably.

The LAPD’s bomb technicians saw themselves as skilled in solving problems. They believed they learned quickly. May invited them to see themselves as innovators. He taught them that various approaches to perceiving a problem in a new light and then solving it have certain things in common. These processes follow a structured pattern of “questioning, framing, hypothesizing, ideating, testing” and “reflecting.”

May presented the technicians with a business problem he had previously offered to similar groups. He thought the bomb technicians would repeat the solutions other people had attempted that failed to solve the problem. Then he asked the technicians to see themselves as the owners of a fancy health club. As a perk, the club provides a bottle of popular, expensive shampoo in ...

About the Author

Speaker, facilitator and coach Matthew E. May writes on strategy and innovation. He also wrote The Laws of Subtraction: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything and In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing, written with Guy Kawasaki.

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    R. T. 3 years ago
    While there is nothing original in this, this seems like an interesting book, and far more valuable and practical than the rating suggests.
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    I. R. 7 years ago
    Most of these modes of thought are actually beneficial in my experience. When we are working with our teams in meetings having everyone think in the same direction at once increases the productivity of our meetings. I'd recommend the "Six Thinking Hats" for anyone looking to maximize the efforts and outputs of your meetings.
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    D. J. 7 years ago