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Above and Below the Line Thinking: Unlocking Creativity and Problem-Solving


Person looking at whiteboard with line symbolising his thinking above and below

In today's fast-paced world, finding innovative solutions and thinking outside the box has become more critical than ever. One approach that has gained attention in recent years is "above and below the line thinking." This concept encourages individuals to shift their mindset and embrace a different perspective when faced with challenges or opportunities.


Above the line thinking refers to a positive and proactive mindset. It involves taking ownership of one's thoughts, actions, and outcomes. Individuals who practice above the line thinking approach problems with curiosity, open-mindedness, and a willingness to learn. They focus on solutions, possibilities, and growth. Instead of dwelling on setbacks or blaming external factors, they take responsibility for their choices and seek ways to overcome obstacles.


Below the line thinking, on the other hand, is characterized by a negative and reactive mindset. People who engage in below the line thinking tend to be closed-minded, blaming others or circumstances for their problems. They often get stuck in a cycle of complaining, making excuses, and feeling victimized. It limits creativity, problem-solving abilities, and personal growth.


By understanding the concept of above and below the line thinking, individuals can develop self-awareness and make a conscious choice to shift their mindset. Adopting an above the line thinking approach can lead to various benefits. It fosters a sense of empowerment and ownership over one's life and work. It enhances problem-solving skills by encouraging individuals to explore multiple perspectives and consider new ideas. Above the line thinking also cultivates a positive and collaborative environment, where individuals take responsibility for their actions and work together towards shared goals.


So, how do we apply above and below the line thinking in practice,

  1. Develop self-awareness and mindfulness. Recognizing when we are slipping into below the line thinking allows us to pause, reflect, and consciously choose to shift back above the line. Be a role model.

  2. Engaging in self-reflection. Reflect on your own thinking patterns and identify when you may be slipping into below the line thinking. Recognize the triggers, such as stress or pressure, that can lead to a negative mindset. Develop strategies for moving out of this position and above the line.

  3. Providing feedback to others. Regularly provide constructive feedback to your team members, focusing on their strengths and areas for improvement. When we recognize achievements, highlight effort, creativity, and problem-solving abilities this reinforces above the line thinking and motivates your team members to continue approaching challenges with a positive mindset.

  4. Growth mindset: Cultivate a growth mindset within your team. Encourage a belief that skills and abilities can be developed through effort and learning. Emphasize the value of learning from failures and setbacks as opportunities for growth and improvement. Celebrate progress and provide support and resources for continuous development.

  5. Call it out. Discuss the concept with your team and then ask people to call out behavior that is above or below the line. You could do this by just drawing a line on a piece of paper and asking ‘where are you coming from; above or below the line?’ with that question or comment.

By incorporating above and below the line thinking into your leadership approach, you can inspire your team to approach challenges with a positive and proactive mindset. We then empower individuals to harness their full potential, take ownership of their actions, and create positive change in their personal and professional lives. This will foster a culture of creativity, problem-solving, and personal growth, ultimately driving success for your team and organization.


So, let us embrace above the line thinking and open ourselves to new possibilities and growth.

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