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The 7 Levels of Change provides a different way of thinking to enhance behaviors and processes. The author demonstrates throughout the book a seven process of change that builds upon the next. He believes that by thinking differently, being creative and stepping out of the norm is the catalyst to solutions and results beyond one’s expectations. Although the author uses the analogy of a new work environment to expound on the level of changes, the fundamentals can be used in both your personal and professional life.
Below each level is identified, along with tools and techniques to help one achieve their goals of mind shifting. The author himself has provided specific examples of his skills and experience as a change agent and innovator.
I. Level 1: Effectiveness – Doing the Right Things – starting new habits and ridding old ones is about change and takes approximately twenty-one days to establish. Writing down your ideas is a “do the right thing” tool that can help you reinforce the importance of ideas. This level is also about awareness and focus – being aware of the right things and then focusing on doing them. Effective thinking is “focused on an intended or expected effect, thinking that produces the intended result.” As with anything there are pros and cons and it holds true for level one. For instance, starting a new job means that you do everything by the book…what is told to you by a coworker or mentor. Because you are acting in accordance to the company’s policies and processes, you are doing the right things effectively, yet are apprehensive of doing things outside of the box.
II. Level 2: Efficiency - Doing things right – After mastering the way things are done on the job (level 1/effectiveness), you are able to move into level 2, which comprise of rules, guidelines, standard operating procedures and time. At this phase efficiency is the foundational thinking; “thinking that produces ideas with a minimum of waste, expenses, energy and unnecessary effort. Time management plays a major role in efficiency. Suggested tools such as a “to do list, a day-timer/planner, e-mail, phone logs, and e-mail, can help manage your time and build and enhance efficiency. Another form of level 2 is delegation, this helps to save time and open mental windows for creativity.
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III. Level 3: Improving – Doing Things Better – the three words that qualifies level 3 changes are better, improve and more. This level of thinking begins by reflecting on your thoughts and asking yourself what ways I may think better. Some suggestions are the thinker tolls box, also referred to as the “Just In Time” thinking technique. Writing keywords and short phrases and visuals, such as drawing arrows during note taking can help to “improve both your retention of information and your ability to make idea connections and build on remembering.” After the note taking process, reflect on what you have written for a few moments and jot down any additional ideas. The author states, in contrast of improvement being a positive change, to others can have a disastrous impact because it may overlook how it interrelates what’s going on with the rest of the parties involved.
IV. Level 4: Cutting – Stop Doing Things – this technique uses Pareto’s 80/20 rule. I call this level “Let go of the clutter.” In order to be successful at this level you must focus on the 20% of things that yields 80% of the bottom line. When you clear out the clutter, you are freeing your time, resources, reduce cost and stress providing you a greater channel for creativity. To help you accomplish “cutting” one of the recommended tools is “Red Tag,” which consists of placing tags on items that determine their need or out. This would be used in an example of desk office; however, it can be used in one’s personal life. For instance, reducing the number of commitments to activities can also help free time and your mind.
V. Level 5: Copying – Doing Things That Other Are Doing – seeing things (noticing) is the fundamental thinking behind level 5 changes. Not re-inventing the wheel can jump-start an innovation at lower costs “in terms of time and resources.” The author implies that copying requires a skill of observing the pros and cons of things and how you can enhance them. A great toll suggested to master this level is ‘benchmarking.” This tool allows you to look at how others do things and see ways in which you can improve those discoveries and achievements and turn them into innovations.
VI. Level 6: Different – “Thinking different isn’t just important, it’s a matter of life and death. Rolf warns that this is perhaps a difficult level for most people because we are so conditioned to think in alignment with traditions and the status quo. The characters noted for the level 6 person is disregard for rules, ability to generate ideas that appear out in space to the average person. In contrast to level 1, 2 and 3 thinkers who are more likely not to share their ideas until they have edited and mastered every detail; level 6 thinkers don’t worry about what other people think, they provide their ideas with an audience. Creating new words is one of the greatest and mind activities tools that I have found throughout the book. Taking a word (verbs and nouns associated with the situation) and making it into a new word and creating a definition for it, is not only creative and innovative, it is as the author claims, a unique way of approaching a situation.
VII. Level 7: Impossible – Doing things that can’t be done – level 7 is “imaginative thinking…thinking which is forceful and which pushes through and emerges from a restrictive mental condition. This implies that level 7 is the epitome of the 7 level of changes. Mastering the 6 levels of changes provides the basis of your mind shifting from the basic to a higher level of thinking and action.
I think the book provided a wealth of information, in a sequential order on how to enhance, develop and expand your mind. In both our personal and professional lives, we become stagnant by our traditions, environment, social and economic factors. Therefore, we look at change as the impossible and not as attainable. Allowing our minds to be free in many ways, by using tools and techniques for time management and organization, ridding the clutter, memorization, collecting and sharing ideas, benchmarking and thinking differently, are all instrumental ways in becoming innovators.