If you’re ever faced with an intractable problem or need to find a new perspective, here are some tools that will help you think bigger...
1. Be someone else
Ask yourself how someone you admire (or even someone you dislike!) might approach a certain situation. How would Google, Apple, Steve Jobs or Vito Corleone tackle this problem?
‘What Would Jesus Do?’ became such a well-known tool that WWJD was a bumper sticker seen across the US in the 1990s. I prefer the secular, specific proposal of the writer Neil Gaiman: pretend you are a wise person.
What makes this mental exercise so effective is that putting yourself in someone else’s shoes frees you of a lot of your own baggage because you try to saddle yourself with theirs.
2. Be somewhere else
Distance matters. The greater the imagined distance between you and an idea the more likely you will be able to critically evaluate it. As something gets closer people tend to become less interested in the concept and focus more on the practical problems such an idea might face.
When assessing ideas for a new business, a study by Jennifer Mueller showed that, people tended to be far more critical when the person with the idea was said to be based around the corner than if the idea seems to come from a far distant source.
The moral is that to think critically about big concepts it helps to imagine some distance between you and the idea.
3. Speak in a different language
The relationship between distance and bolder, more conceptual thinking manifests itself in other ways too. Take language. You will think more conceptually in another language than your mother tongue.
Bjork, the Icelandic music megastar, told The Guardian: "[speaking] English for me is still like an arm’s length removed. You are always a bit different in the mother tongue.
"That’s why it’s maybe easier for me in English to be an extrovert. In Icelandic I’m more private."
Bjork attended the Cannes film festival dressed as a swan.