I've recently returned from a Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner course. On the long drive home, I started to reflect on how I would use what I'd just learned in my every day life. One of the first things that popped up was the unconscious mind. (As I write this, I realise that my unconscious mind must have been busy driving while my conscious mind was busy reflecting!) 

According to NLP, the unconscious has a number of characteristics.  I've started connecting these to my job of developing innovative, legal tech products.

The unconscious does not process negatives

I tried this out on my mum. I asked her to sit down. She said she didn't want to sit down (she can be awkward sometimes). So I said (quickly and calmly) "Don't sit down". Within a blink of an eye she sat down  - what magic!  

In terms of innovation I can see several applications:

  • encouraging people to develop their ideas – in future I'll say "carry on with that line of thought" instead of "don't stop".
  •  when blockers appear – I'll try "what can we do to get round this" rather than "Don't let that get in our way"
  • instructional text on web pages – only use positive

I'm still mulling over whether "Don't invest more" will work!

The unconscious uses and responds to symbols

We all know that a picture paints a thousand words.  And it's already well-known that pictures and icons are important in web design. That said, we can all think of examples of business systems that could benefit from a bit more imagery to improve usability.

At Clifford Chance Applied Solutions we are often to be found drawing on the walls of our office (it's ok, our space has write-on walls). By doing this we are more able to collaborate and quickly solve problems and create high level technical designs and user-flows than through an exchange of emails or even in a face to face (where we only tend to share words and gestures - not symbols). 

Finally on the matter of symbols, I've been left wondering to what extent is the unconscious involved in coding... Do let me know what you think?

The unconscious wants to continually seek more and more

Let's not allow our conscious ("I can't", "we should", "we don't do things that way") get in the way when it comes to innovation! 

The unconscious mind generates habits

In terms of innovation, habits could be good ("let's experiment") or not so good ("it must be perfect"). I have become more aware of my negative habitual thought patterns by being blessed with a diverse team who are happy to share their more positive views.

The unconscious mind takes everything personally

Innovation and product development are hard, things go wrong (oops  - I mean there are lots of learning opportunities). It really helps to be aware that the unconscious takes things personally and to let your conscious mind intervene.