Successful people use frameworks to think, create and perform at a higher level than the rest of us. Here are two examples from my recent reading and podcast listening:

  1. Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strips, says there are six dimensions to humor. They are: Naughty, Clever, Cute, Bizarre, Mean and Recognizable. He says he knows he’s got something good if a joke has at least two of these dimensions. So his comic strips don’t just spring, divinely inspired, from his spectacularly clever brain. He’s got his framework.
  2. Amy Webb, technology futurist and founder of the Future Today Institute, is in the business of identifying technological trends, from which she makes forecasts about the future for large corporate clients. To determine that a trend is meaningful, Amy studies how it intersects with “the 10 modern sources of change within society”. These are: (1) wealth distribution, (2) government, (3) education, (4) politics, (5) public health, (6) demography, (7) economy, (8) environment, (9) journalism, and (10) media. Amy explains her processes, including her six-step method for forecasting the future, in her book The Signals are Talking.

These two examples suggest that great thinkers and creators rely on mental structures and organizing principles. A brilliant comic strip or dead-on forecast doesn’t spring, fully formed, from the black box of genius. It is crafted and shaped through a disciplined thought process. And that’s the real genius of folks like Scott and Amy: They’ve found specific recipes for thinking. The results come from there.