Slow Down Your Thinking

Slow Thinking 

The idea of slow thinking feels contrary to our Western take on problem solving. However, there has been some scientific research that demonstrates that the more patient, slow type of thinking is more effective than deliberate, logical thinking when we are trying to solve a problem that is ill defined; when we don’t know exactly what we are looking for, what the parameters are, or simply where to start.

You will probably have experienced this already. For example, how often do good ideas come to you at odd moments, maybe in the shower, or when you are on the brink of sleep and your brain waves have slowed but you are still awake? (Incidentally, this is why visualisations are so successful as they take your mind to that point just before sleep but leave you mentally alert).

Allowing your mind time to unwind is not a luxury, or being lazy, but positively good for you. So when you next have a problem to solve don’t force yourself to an answer.


To tap into these slow ways of knowing, or our inner wisdom, we need to throw off for a time our Western need to do everything fast, know why we are doing it, and have a theory to explain it. This was well understood by many of the great thinkers of our time. Einstein, for example, was often found just sitting in his office staring into space and Sir John Harvey Jones (ex-Chair of ICI) said that a meeting without long silences meant that no one was thinking.

In my seminars and courses I always try to build in some reflective space. I encourage participants just to wander for a while, actually or figuratively, to allow some of the ideas and strategies simply to percolate round in their head. It’s something we rarely get a chance to do in the fast paced world of work but it costs little and can greatly enhance your problem solving capacities, your mental well being, and your enjoyment of life!

Slow Thinking Time

Put some time in your diary now. Slow Thinking Time (STT), and see what happens – you may be surprised! And if colleagues scoff, tell them you are employing a well known technique from Einstein!

Suggestions for Further Reading available from Amazon or your local library,
Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind by Guy Claxton


Posted on March 26th, 2009 by

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