Thinking About Thinking

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TME-RGudobbaPROGRESS in Lending started out as a simple idea among great friends five years ago. The thinking was that there was no single place for industry thought leaders to come together and express their ideas on how to change/improve the mortgage industry. A few months after those talks Tony Garritano decided to form the company. In the second half of 2010, I wrote 13 articles under the banner, “Things to Ponder.” In October of 2010, I mentioned to Tony that I could not write the weekly article, as I didn’t’ think I could come up with 52 ideas in the next year. At that point, Tony introduced this monthly magazine, Tomorrow’s Mortgage Executive, and asked me to write a monthly column. When thinking about for this article, I realized that next month would be my 50th Future Trends article. WOW! So, how did I manage to think of 50 things to write about?

I have always been curious. Even when something appears to be the only solution to a problem, I have always believed in looking at alternatives. Even though it may only be to thoughtfully eliminate them. Why do I do this? Sometimes it may bring to mind solutions that you have not considered. In the end, if you stick with your original solution, you can at least rest assured that you have considered all other possibilities. So, the answer to what I would write about each month was actually easy.

I wanted to start with a look at all the future trends, theories and concepts by writing about a new business process or technology that could potentially have an impact on your personal or professional world. My basic objective was to pique the reader’s interest. Hopefully, this would be the one that registered with the reader in some profound way. The one that made you think differently.

That brings me to the title of this article, “Thinking about Thinking.” If we think back for a second, the THINK motto was ubiquitous within IBM offices and factories throughout the world by the 1930s. In 1948, IBM handed out 9,000 signs; by 1960 that number had jumped to 20,000. The concept was simple. Everyone had that desk sign in prominent display. It became ingrained in your way of looking at problems. Think first. Even Apple got on the bandwagon. Apple’s 1997 “Think Different” ad campaign was one of the major turning points in the company’s history, a message to the world that Steve Jobs and his innovative vision had returned to Apple after leaving in 1985.

A recent article in Rotman Magazine stated, “We now understand the basic underlying principles of how our brains work and interact with our environments. The more we can build our awareness of these principles and explore ways to turn that awareness into action, the better. In the end, the extent to which you develop as a thinker will be determined by the amount of time you dedicate to your development, the quality of the intellectual practice you engage in, and the depth of your commitment”.

The brain is divided into two hemispheres that each control specific functions. The left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for logic. When you’re doing mathematical and analytical thinking, for example, you’re utilizing the left side of your brain. The right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for emotions. When you’re creatively thinking or daydreaming, the right side of your brain takes over. Left-brain dominant individuals are usually logical in their approach to problems and situations, serious in nature, knowledgeable about a variety of subjects, linear in thinking, structured and organized in their jobs and lives, and rational in making decisions. Right-brain dominant individuals are usually highly intuitive; have little sense of time; enjoy music, clutter, and creative thinking; make decisions based on hunches and emotions; and use holistic thinking. Critical thinking is the process of thinking that questions assumptions. Creative thinking is a way of looking at situations from a fresh perspective. Creative thinking involves creating something new or original. Most ideas are in fact modifications of something else that exists within your knowledge base. By using imagination, intellect and existing knowledge you can form in your mind a new thought or idea. While critical thinking can be thought of as more left-brain and creative thinking more right brain, they both involve “thinking.”

Are you confused yet? Here is another way to look at this. Divergent thinking allows us to use our imagination to explore all sorts of new possibilities. This is thinking outside the box. Convergent thinking allows us to use our knowledge to examine concepts and see where they fit. This is thinking inside the box. At first glance, divergent thinking might seem to be more creative than convergent thinking, but both are essential. Each of the two thinking processes has an important role to play. Maybe the best way in which convergent thinking may be combined with divergent thinking is to engage in divergent thinking in order to generate many novel ideas, and then to evaluate these ideas by using convergent thinking. An understanding of both of these types of collaborative thinking will have a profound impact on your ultimate success. Hopefully, this will get you thinking!

And don’t for a second think that you’re ever too old to think of something new. Over the past 20 years we have learned that older brains have as much ability to grow new nerve cells and connections as younger brains. Experiments have shown that some brain exercises can make older brains function as well as most 20 year olds. In fact, older brains can reclaim their whole visual field, improve hearing, as well as increase the speed and accuracy of a person’s attention. When you are mind wandering, thinking about things, being introspective about things unrelated to visual and hearing stimuli that are coming at you in the present, your brain is growing. It is more introspective, stimulus independent thought, using more inside parts of our cortex, the downstairs parts of our brains, that keeps us young.

With all of that said, let’s think about what’s on the horizon? The mortgage industry is faced with many challenges. The regulatory changes so far are just the tip of the iceberg as to what we will see over the next few years. Lenders, vendors and service providers alike need to have a detailed project plan with very specific measurable goals, timelines and resource requirements, both internal and external. One weak link can break the entire chain. You must have a sound infrastructure. Simply put, you need to be thinking.

Let’s look at the pending CFPB requirements around the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure, for example. I commend the CFPB for collaboratively working with the industry to re-define the initial and closing process with the consumer. On the surface, the changes appear minor, we are only talking about two documents. Below the surface is another story. Data elements have been added and/or changed, but the real story is the process change. There are some very specific time constraints on the interactions with the consumer, but the real change is the process for closing the loan. In the past, the closing or settlement agent was responsible for the final HUD Settlement Statement, sometimes causing angst and anxiety for the lender. Now that the lender is on the hook for any errors or omissions, the lender has control of that. The lender can ensure that everything is in sync, and have control over all the post-closing processes, as well.

So, here’s my final thought: Looking to the future, everyone involved in the mortgage industry needs to be on high alert and in a proactive state-of-mind.

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