Leadership and Critical Thinking – Where Are Your Blind Spots?

I came across an interesting post recently in Forbes regarding leadership and critical thinking. The author describes 5 five kinds of critical thinking that are crucial for leaders to employ. Strategic leadership requires all five types of thinking. Knowing when and how much to utilize each one separates effective leaders from the rest.

Critical thinking is the mental process of objectively analyzing a situation by gathering information from all possible sources, and then evaluating both the tangible and intangible aspects, as well as the implications of any course of action.

Implementation thinking is the ability to organize ideas and plans in a way that they will be effectively carried out.

Conceptual thinking consists of the ability to find connections or patterns between abstract ideas and then piece them together to form a complete picture.

Innovative thinking involves generating new ideas or new ways of approaching things to create possibilities and opportunities.

Intuitive thinking is the ability to take what you may sense or perceive to be true and, without knowledge or evidence, appropriately factor it in to the final decision.

In our experience, leaders come “pre-wired” with strengths in one or two of these areas. However, without knowledge, training and coaching, they tend to overuse one approach, often with less than desirable results. Case in point: I’m currently working with a CEO of a medium sized organization on creating a strategic plan. He is a strong critical and implementation thinker, but lacks the ability to engage in innovative thinking. This will severely limit his ability to grow the organization in new and creative ways. As a result, our planning process will include more emphasis on the creative element, and I’ll focus additional energy on assisting the CEO in discovering new ideas for growth and converting the promising ideas into tangible action.

Which kind of critical thinking is a blind spot for you? Where are the critical thinking gaps of your leaders?

Faults and Fixes – How To Avoid The Most Destructive Mistakes in Business Decision Making

In 22 years of life as a decision making consultant, coach and teacher, I’ve seen it all…or at least most of it. From great decisions that resulted in millions of dollars gained, to flawed decisions that brought down products, divisions, and even entire businesses. I’ve seen some good decisions go bad because of bad luck, but many more go bad due to perfectly controllable factors that were ignored.

The experience of teaching thousands of business people has enabled me to identify certain decision making “faults” that crop up frequently. Faults that result in flawed thinking, poor judgments and bad decisions.

Although bad decisions can often be traced back to the way the decisions were made, the fault sometimes lies not in the decision making process, but in the minds of the decision makers. Read more…

Have you caught the Decision Fatigue virus?

You did the research, analyzed the options, and put together a complete and compelling recommendation for your boss, the Vice President. But during the meeting, you just couldn’t get the buy-in you were looking for. In fact, you didn’t get much of anything – he asked you to “clean up the recommendation a little” and schedule a follow up meeting with him in two weeks. 

You leave the meeting wondering what went wrong.
      • Sound analysis? Check.
      • Clean and logical recommendation? Check.
      • Major risks and potential problems dealt with? Check.
      • Good handout? Check.

Then it hits you.

You were the seventh of eight “one-on-ones” the Vice President had scheduled for the day. He seemed only partially tuned in to what you were saying – not fully engaged like normal. Frankly, it looked like he wanted to avoid making any decision on what you were discussing today.

What the boss most likely was experiencing is called Decision Fatigue, a very real and very debilitating cognitive bias. Decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual, after a long session of decision making. It manifests itself in one of two ways: as decision fatigue grows, individuals will tend to make progressively poorer quality decisions, or may avoid making any decisions – despite the opportunities or costs. Read more…

Never Had An Original Idea? You’re Right On Track!

Over the past 19 years, we’ve helped thousands of professionals improve their creativity skills through our Creative Focus® tools and training. In the classroom, participants often bring a skepticism about creativity that manifests itself like this: “I’m not a naturally creative person. Original ideas come from the ‘creative’ types.”  This belief stems from an often misguided perception that creativity is about original ideas – the “eureka” moments that we read about in books and websites.

In our observation, this kind of creative solution finding is rare. More frequently, creative solutions are found by people who “borrow” ideas from other places and apply them to the challenge at hand. This is the central concept of a new book called The Idea Hunter: How to Find The Best Ideas and Make Them HappenRead more…

To be a better decision maker, get rid of this.

To become a better decision maker instantly, get rid of your ego. Ego and its evil twin, egotism, are constantly conspiring to interrupt good decision making logic. Ego driven decision making manifests itself in many ways, but the #1 negative effect of ego in decision making is being attached to decision outcomes. It’s our ego that fuels our intense desire to create specific outcomes. And, just like clockwork, this type of attitude leads to disappointment when the desired outcome fails to manifest.

If it’s all about us, then it isn’t about our customers, shareholders, organization or team.

Dr. Paul Nutt of Ohio State University conducted more than two decades of research, with hundreds of organizations, on why business decisions go awry. He discovered three key reasons why 50 percent of decisions fail:

  1. More than one-third of all failed business decisions are driven by ego.
  2. Nearly two-thirds of executives never explore alternatives once they make up their minds.
  3. Eighty-one percent of managers push their decisions through by persuasion or edict, not by the relevance of their ideas.

We are good at detecting ego driven decision making behaviors in others, but often have a giant blind spot in assessing our own vulnerabilities. Does your ego get in the way of good decision thinking? Ask yourself the questions below. If the answer to any of these is yes, ask yourself why? This will lead you to the ego driven decision traps that must be addressed. Read more…

Got a tough problem? Try this technique.

Do you find it’s sometimes easier to find solutions for other people’s problems than your own? It turns out the reason is based on science. I recently came across an article from Daniel Pink, one of my favorite authors and researcher of all things brainy. In his post entitled 3 Tricks for Solving Problems Faster And Better, Pink discusses three tactics that revolve around the concept of construal level theory. According to construal level theory, objects, events or situations can be perceived as either close or distant. The further away we are from a situation, the more we able to view it from an abstract point of view. This psychological distance is what allows us to focus on the problem itself, without getting wrapped up in the “messiness” of the situation. This explains why many times it’s easier to find really good solutions for other people’s problems, but get stymied in trying to solve our own.

So how can we employ this concept for better problem solving and decision making, especially as the stakes rise in the problems we face? Here are three suggestions. Read more…

Want to be good at creativity? Be bad at creativity.

Virtually anywhere you reside in the world of business today, you are challenged to get creative – in finding new business opportunities, doing more with less, finding creative solutions to nagging problems, etc. But for many of us, finding creative solutions is an elusive endeavor. And even for the few who have a spark of natural creativity, finding real solutions is a hit-and-miss proposition at best.

I recently came across two authors who advocated the same approach to finding creative solutions to business problems. Their advice is this – in order to be good at creativity, you first need to be bad at it. In other words, look for bad ideas before you try for good ideas. Hmmm, this seems interesting. Ever been in a meeting where bad ideas abound? Now you can use these to find good ideas.

Take a look at the posts below. They are brief, but worthy of remembering next time you need to find a creative solution to a nagging problem.

Why you should come up with at least 1 bad idea today

How to Be More Creative (Step 1: Destroy)

There are many tools and methods available to help stimulate creativity in business situations. What methods have worked for you? Any tips to help make the creative process more effective?

What’s the secret of being really good at something?

And…how do we unlock it? This is a question I ponder often in my role as consultant, teacher and coach; because much of my job is helping business professionals get better at theirs.

A friend of mine suggested I pick up “The Talent Code” – a book that explores this question in new ways. He read it to help his golf game and thought it could help mine (it can). He also thought the ideas would be useful to business professionals. So I downloaded it to my Kindle and started reading. Read more…

The Dangers of Advocacy Based Decisions

Business teams can get sideways quickly on decisions – sometimes so fast the decision process suffers major damage in the space of one meeting.

I was recently involved with a business team that experienced the perils of an advocacy approach to decisions. In the advocacy approach, participants focus on one option only – this instantly puts the decision making body in an “accept or reject” mode, rather than weighing multiple options on a level playing field. Read more…

New Year’s Resolutions for the Decision Maker

Welcome to 2011. If you are like most of us, you’ve probably thought about setting goals for the new year. Call them New Year’s resolutions, personal goals, or just a fresh “to-do” list. According to Wikipedia, a New Year’s resolution is a commitment that an individual makes to a personal goal, project, or re-forming of a habit. Our motivation is to either correct habitual mistakes we’ve made in the past, or improve in an area we’ve deemed to be important. The goal in either case is to realize a future that is brighter and more fulfilling than the past. Read more…

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