Seven Prompts to Elevate Intellectual Horsepower

February 21, 2012 by
Posted in Learning Operations, Performance Readiness Solutions

Gray matters…That is the gray substance that exists between your ears. It’s been said that technology is doubling every six months, a statistic that has been reducing in time and increasing in speed. As technical know-how advances, so does the need to keep our minds sharp and our access to information fluid. Your ability to acquire knowledge, master skills, and put the skill to use in solving life’s challenges is your intellectual horsepower.

I once read an article in Popular Science where the writers claimed that we use only 10% of the brain’s capacity—and much of that was structurally set at birth. All is not lost; it’s safe to say that we have the extra brain capacity to put to good use, and access to information is more prolific now than ever before.

Similar to how you manage your time, managing your intelligence is a use it or lose it bank account; those who work to stay mentally sharp show continual slight increases in intelligence throughout their lifetimes. Here are some prompts to rev-up your intellectual horsepower:


  1. Become Centered – We are very emotionally inspired creatures, and those emotions can hijack the brain, persuading it to become ineffective, lose composure, and demonstrate stressed decision making. Take a deep breath; regain composure over a minute of silence. Brain researchers say that it typically takes two to three decision attempts to actually get to the correct decision─in general, the first decision is emotionally driven.
  2. Expand Your Beliefs – Our experiences unknowingly create boundaries for our thinking. In fact, the Chinese use a host of words to describe the word “danger”; similarly many Indian tribes from various regions may use one word for snow; however, other Indian tribes in northern climates have as many as 24 different words for 24 different types of snow conditions. Broadening your mind can expand your intelligence; this is commonly referred to as thinking outside the box.
  3. Move More – Healthy living is on everyone’s mind; many of the gurus in health say move more or exercise more. Consequently, the mind is the same—mental exercises work to increase the use of your intellectual horsepower. Some helpful exercises include making checklists, running possible scenarios, charting the pros and cons, visualizing problems with solutions, and identify patterns. Further resources to stimulate the mind can be searched on the Internet.
  4. Drop Opinions – You don’t know what you don’t know…more specifically, increasing knowledge begins with knowing the facts, not making premature conclusions. From Dr. Edward de Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats,” gathering facts, information, and research are the characteristics of the brain performing White Hat mental exercises. Some White Hat questions include the following: What are the facts? Where do I get the facts? How do I get true facts and avoid manipulated opinions?
  5. Dig Deeper – For most of us, when presented with a problem, our normal reaction is to buzz in with the answer faster than anyone else. We all have preconceived notions, favorite solutions, and prejudices that prevent our intellectual skills from dealing with the real facts of the problem. Take a breather, shut down the buzzer-beating answer machine, and carefully absorb the facts. Do some personal research, which is easier than ever. Various Internet websites show how things are made, such as eHow, How It Works, and YouTube. A few seconds of research can link dialogue to demonstration.
  6. Picture Proof – It’s been said that pictures says a thousand words; the mind is the world’s best camera. From experience to memory, a problem or situation placed in a visualized format can surface trends, hiccups in strategy, or gain knowledgeable insight. Become an expert in using imagery. The use of graphics, photos illustrations, charts, and flowcharts can bring clarity to a situation. Troubleshooting flowcharts are standard learning tools for repairing complex equipment.
  7. Seek Skills – Building a strong intellectual mind is much like building a strong house from the foundation on up. Obtain a book on “mind mapping” techniques to uncover who you are and how you learn best. Skills can be developed in a methodical, strategic manner, especially skills designed to solve problems. Certain problem-solving concepts are discovered through the mapping process and directional clarity, yielding steps to operationalize your strategy.

Do you have specific intellectual horsepower management tools you most favor to attain better team performance or momentum? Would you say your leadership skills demonstrate a methodical approach to inspiring intelligent thought? How?


About the Author: For over 17 years, Mike Koper helped establish new training programs for GP Strategies™ and continues to be a subject matter expert in the manufacturing industry. He has written and published numerous thought leadership articles for the industry.

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