A Talk With Gerald Sindell – Author of The Genius Machine

By Gerald Sindell in Management on May 12th, 2009 / No Comments

People have been thinking for thousands of years. Why do we suddenly need a book to tell us how to think?

People have been running, too, for thousands of years. But if you want to be in the Olympics, it’s generally a good idea to get a coach.

Most of us can think really well about one or two parts of a problem at any given moment. The challenge is that most problems are more complicated than that, and what might seem like a good solution at first can end up spawning all kinds of other problems we didn’t expect. Brilliant thinking is meant to take our good thinking abilities and use them to completely think through really complex problems — so we can come up with creations and solutions that we’ll be happy about not only today but five years from now.

Who is The Genius Machine for?  Is it just for writers and business people?

I think that everyone needs to be able to think intelligently about things on a regular basis, so my hope is that the book will be useful to all kinds of people. The kind of thinking the book is about is where we want a certain kind of success from what we’re trying to create at the moment, and we will want to be happy with our result one year or ten years from now. So The Genius Machine might be useful for the board of a new charter school designing a curriculum that reflects their vision, or for someone in high school trying to get an A on their final paper of the year, an entrepreneur designing a website, or a country redesigning their entire health care system.

Is The Genius Machine a real machine?

What I had in mind was a device with a hopper that you could drop your ideas into, you could turn the crank, and out would pop your ideas fully thought through, with red flags there to warn you about unintended consequences. And you’d find surprises like the millions of folks who would also like to benefit from your discoveries. The whole thing would come wrapped in a package that would make it easy for everyone to immediately see how valuable your creation is.

So the book is like that imaginary machine, except there’s no crank.

Why 11 steps? Do we really need to go through all of them?

Although 7 and 12 step programs have been popular in the past, when I started to write this book by distilling down all the things I do with my clients when we’re thinking through a problem or developing a new idea, I had no idea how many steps we would end up with. When I finally got it down to 11 that was simply as few as I could make it. I finally concluded that there really are 11 different things you need to consider when you’re trying to think brilliantly. If you ignore one of them, you’ll miss something important.

Will the book make people smarter?

Well that’s the funny thing. At first the genius is in the process that the book makes you go through, but after you use it for awhile and get used to asking these questions of yourself or the group you’re working with, the process kind of gets internalized. And then the genius is in you. Let’s just say that a lot of people, I hope, will be transformed by the book. And it might even create some real geniuses.

Did you have to be a genius to write this book?

No, you don’t need to be a racing driver to build a Ferrari. I’ve been working with a lot of really smart people for a long time, though, and needed to find ways to help them figure out what they already knew but they hadn’t quite been able to say it all yet. This book would never have come about if I’d been talking only to myself the last ten years.

About the author:
Gerald Sindell is the founder of Thought Leaders International, a firm that guides leaders and organizations of all kinds to maximize their return on the most precious capital of all: their ideas. He lives in Tiburon, CA and his website is www.thoughtleadersintl.com.

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