Think Pond Wish List

Think Ponds are for people who want to:

  • Do joyful, creative, meaningful, and fulfilling work.
  • Have conversations and experiences that stretch the mind, spark the imagination, and expand the vision.
  • Make “digital life” less fragmented, more inquiring, and more aspirational.
  • Become attuned to possibilities and potential changes that could have wide-ranging effects on their lives and the world.
  • Work with a diverse array of minds and talents.

Tools for Think Ponds: Essential Questions

Use essential questions to help frame the vision and work of your Think Pond.

Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, whose books have revolutionized teaching in many schools, present these criteria for what defines an essential question:

  1. Is open-ended; that is, it typically will not have a single, final, and correct answer.
  2. Is thought-provoking and intellectually engaging, often sparking discussion and debate.
  3. Calls for higher-order thinking, such as analysis, inference, evaluation, prediction. It cannot be effectively answered by recall alone.
  4. Points toward important, transferable ideas within (and sometimes across) disciplines.
  5. Raises additional questions and sparks further inquiry.
  6. Requires support and justification, not just an answer.
  7. Recurs over time; that is, the question can and should be revisited again and again.

Essential questions are most frequently used in schools. Teachers use them to deepen students’ thinking skills and understanding. Why not begin to adopt a group thinking strategy that is familiar to the next generation entering the work force?

Some teachers also use essential questions in their own professional learning to develop more thoughtful approaches to instruction. Why not try to use them in a broader range of adult learning situations?

Imagineering: Essential Questions

  • In what ways do you consider yourself creative or innovative?
  • In what areas do you wish you were more creative or innovative?
  • What stimulates your imagination?
  • What are some areas within your industry or profession where innovation most needs to happen?
  • Based on recognized problems and developments you have seen in recent years, what is the likely next wave of your industry or profession? What change is currently emerging?
  • If you could change careers without losing any income, would you do it? If so, what would you do differently?

Entrepreneurial Experimentation: Essential Questions

  1. What comes to mind when you think about turning your passion into a business?
  2. What are you currently making or doing for free that could be marketed?
  3. Do you have a solution that could become a product or service?
  • Do you have any visible/tangible manifestations of that idea?
  • What would it take to start producing/doing something from your idea on the smallest scale possible?
  • What is the closest thing to that idea that is currently being offered?
  • What existing business or other entity (nonprofit, government body or agency) might possibly be working on an idea like yours? Who might be interested in it?
  • Who would be interested in buying your solution? Why would it appeal to them? What do they need?

Solution-Seeking: Essential Questions

  • What role do imagination and creativity play in your chosen profession and in your current industry, organization, and job? In your other roles (citizen, parent, partner, single person, homeowner, gardener, cook, athlete, whatever)?
  • What are some specific creative challenges you face currently?
  • What would you like to make?
  • What are some areas within your industry or profession where innovation most needs to happen?
  • What types of solutions would transform your industry or profession?

Life-Embedded Learning: Essential Questions

  • What is one area of your practice that would benefit from a period of learning?
  • What material items would you need?
  • What books would you read?
  • What other learning resources would you use (e.g., workshops, online courses, tutorials, manuals)?
  • Whom do you know with the most expertise in this skill area? Who else could advise you?
  • How much time will it take to: a) Acquire the basic knowledge needed to ask good questions and make a plan for using the skill? b) Acquire enough competency to do a small, simple project for yourself or for free for someone else? c) Become capable of doing a bigger project with some guidance? d) Become skilled enough to incorporate the skill into your practice in a minor way? e) Become skilled enough to complete projects that require the skill in order to be successful?

What is a Think Pond?

Think Ponds are fluid associations of diverse individuals who bring their imaginations, knowledge, and skill sets, along with their dreams and passion projects, into a community of their own design. Creative energies converge, expanding possibility. Obstacles are flattened as complementary skills combine and available resources broaden. Timelines contract. Promising ideas stay out of the trash. Connections proliferate.

For individuals, a Think Pond is a next generation platform for shaping and strengthening four essential lifelong enterprises: 1) Imagineering, 2) Self-directed life-embedded learning, 3) Creative solution-seeking, and 4) Pre-entrepreneurship. Making the most of these enterprises will both improve your competitive edge and increase your level of fulfillment with the work you do in the world.

For the greater good, an evolving ecosystem of Think Ponds is a wellspring of creativity and collaboration that can increase the sustainability of innovative, socially valuable programs, incubate new businesses, and activate unrealized human potential.

The Four Enterprises

Do you think of a career as a sequence of jobs with progressively higher pay and greater responsibility? What if you reimagined your career as a set of four lifelong enterprises that you continuously create and expand and refine. Merriam-Webster defines an enterprise as “a project or undertaking that is especially difficult, complicated, or risky.” In other words, I am talking about endeavors that continue whether you are employed, unemployed, or under-employed. Whatever your circumstances, you keep these four enterprises alive because they supply something you need.

I think everyone need to pursue these four lifelong enterprises, regardless of the individual’s passions, aptitudes, credentials, employment experiences, assets, and constraints:

Imagineering. Using your imagination fully. Paying attention to the sensory experiences, images, and cultural expressions that swirl around you and mindfully pursuing those that awaken your mind, heighten the intensity of your emotions, and enrich your soul. Exploring possibilities, envisioning your desired future, and inventing the kinds of endeavors that will both fulfill you and make a positive difference.

Self-directed, life-embedded learning. Taking advantage of the numerous learning opportunities afforded by books, media entities, technologies, community resources, and people in your sphere. Continually investigating what you know and what you think you know. Consciously developing and applying new skills, adapting existing knowledge and skills in new areas, and finding greater depth of meaning and significance in the people, environments, and experiences you encounter.

Creative solution seeking.  Looking at your life from different perspectives and seeking ways to synergize your assets and talents. Bringing an artistic sensibility, design thinking, and surprise into whatever you produce. Continually generating divergent ideas about how to look at and respond to circumstances, problems, challenges, opportunities, and desires–both individually and collaboratively.

Pre-entrepreneurship. Thinking about and testing ways to carry your ideas and solutions forward into the marketplace for your profit, into the public sphere for the good of others and the enrichment of the culture, or just into a wider conversation for their continued development and enrichment.

The Big Solution

Whether your career and adult life are on the verge of lift-off, going full throttle, or floating in that space of pre-retirement satisfaction, nostalgia, and regret, you need to think about this essential question:

How can I respond to this present time of rapid technological change, social upheaval, and economic uncertainty in a way that will fulfill my vision for the future?

That is the ultimate example of what I call “solution-seeking.” Here are some practices to try:

  1. Choose multiple paths. You seldom need to settle for either/or. Sometimes you can choose one project, career, or lifestyle and still have the best of the option you didn’t pursue. The harder the choice was to make, the better it is to try this.
  2. Take thoughtful detours and side trips whenever you can. Don’t neglect true talents because they don’t pay your bills. Assert your right to try something different. Dabble unapologetically.
  3. Be both an intern and a mentor. Everyone always has the potential to be an intern at one thing and a mentor at another. Everyone could benefit from having and being both. Any group of three or more people can find a project on which to collaborate.
  4. Pretend honestly. The world of make-believe can be your friend, as long as everyone affected agrees to play.
  5. Look across conventional boundaries for knowledge, ideas, tools, and collaborators. Anyone willing to think and work can contribute to any project even if it’s only in a small way. Outsiders and amateur can make invaluable contributions. Teams can be fluid. You can energize solution seeking by linking your challenge to someone else’s.
  6. Embrace slowness if necessary. It’s better to take a long time to get there than it is to wait until the right time or give up. Always be conscious of the process, but be very thoughtful about imposing deadlines, outlines, timelines, and needless constraints. Put your dream at the radius of everything you do rather than on its own linear path.

Not all of these approaches require you to work with others, but most will steer you toward collaborative relationships. Those relationships could be the beginning of your Think Pond.

Think Ponds: Who Benefits?

Whatever field you are in, starting or belonging to a Think Pond can be a vehicle for:

  • Doing joyful, creative, meaningful, and fulfilling work.
  • Having conversations and experiences that stretch the mind, spark the imagination, and expand the vision.
  • Making “digital life” less fragmented, more inquiring, more purposeful, and more aspirational.
  • Becoming attuned to possibilities and potential changes that could have wide-ranging effects.
  • Working with a diverse array of minds and talents.

People in the following situations can benefit especially from Think Ponds:

Good Job, Dreams on Hold

You are starting to feel that dreams, creativity, and fulfillment are luxuries that must take a back seat when seeking employment, keeping your well-paying job, and getting ahead at work. You find the future too unnerving to consider. You often remind yourself that you are lucky just to have a job that pays the bills.

Think Pond Benefits: You will have an outlet for expressing who you are, a reduced likelihood of burnout in your job, and a better likelihood that you will be ahead of the curve when your profession or industry changes.

Fulfilling Career, Financial Uncertainty

You are in love with your job but worried about whether the income you earn will sustain you and whether you will be ready to seize opportunities to go to the next level when you have grown out of your current job. You are trying to “make it” in a creative sphere and are having trouble getting noticed or accepted into the dominant group.

Think Pond Benefits: By participating in small projects whenever you can, you will have opportunities to tap into additional income streams without detracting from your job and to show what you can do to people outside your industry or profession. You will increase your visibility as a professional by creating new avenues for sharing your creative work and unique skills in more diverse contexts.

Career Success, Change Agent

You are secure in your job and confident that you have the foresight and agility to stay ahead of the next wave of change in your profession or market. Your work is energizing and fulfilling. You have a clear, compelling dream, know the path to achieve it, and have the necessary knowledge and resources to boldly step onto that path and follow where it leads. You would like to help others.

Think Pond Benefits: You will have greater visibility, opportunities to accelerate success and diversify your network, a wealth of ideas and topics for your blog or Linked In presence.