Thinking Strategically, Thinking Critically

Have we lost our ability to think strategically, to analyze, to dissect facts, and make thoughtful, intelligent decisions? This article, How to Encourage Critical Thinking in the Workplace taps some important factors organizations must consider to thrive now and for decades into the future. Author of this article, Paul Crosby, points out, “Despite the demand for critical thinking, several hiring managers believe it’s lacking in the current workforce. However, critical thinking isn’t necessarily a skill that modern employees lack, but rather a skill they seldom use.”

“Thinking strategically is not an unrealistic expectation; neither is it a mind boggling process or age dependent, writes at the Association for Talent Development. What really limits strategic perspective is a reliance on habit, past practice, and limited expectations.” – Mary Lippitt

Here are a few reasons why critical thinking is forgotten in the workplace and how managers can help bring it back. Continue reading How to Encourage Critical Thinking in the Workplace here.

The referenced article, How to Encourage Critical Thinking in the Workplace, was first published at the Business Analyst Blog on August 24, 2017

 

 

Future Proof Your Thinking

Stop the World I Want to Get Off opened on Broadway in the 1960s, and decades later the cliché still takes center stage in our quest to maintain the status quo as changes engulf us at a dizzying pace. Adopting an “everything is fine” mentality creates the illusion that we can safely hide, ostrich style, while dynamic changes transform our world. Jack Welch, retired CEO of General Electric, declared this challenge: “If the rate of change within an organization is not equal to or greater than the rate of change surrounding that organization, the organization will die!” Firms that fail to keep pace with change do not thrive.

Success without change is a myth. How many would have imagined that one of the largest lodging companies owns no property (Airbnb), or one of the largest transportation companies owns no vehicles (Uber)? The winds of change are relentless despite our resistance to the speed at which they are advancing. We grasp for the familiar and hold on to what we know. Regardless of our desire to not “mess with success” without change our future evolvement is lost.     

The Mayo Clinic has a well-earned reputation for patient care. Despite accolades and praise, they recognized the value of fixing what is not broken. In 2008, the same year Lehman collapsed, the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees launched an initiative to restructure their programs for adolescent care, reducing the average time to diagnosis illness. They also discovered ways to reduce the use of anesthesia and imaging. Doctors bristled at some of the modifications that impacted their routines, including cardiac surgery practices. However, they saw the handwriting on the wall indicating that without new methodologies, the future would include increasing costs while reimbursements would be reduced.

Mayo Clinic could have proudly accepted their status as one of the top clinics and ignored options to dig deeply and adjust to changing realities.

Instead, they burst through the “we are great” bubble to broaden their perspective and search for new opportunities. As Daniel Kahneman reported in Thinking: Fast or Slow, “We tend to think that what we see is all that there is to see. We adopt blinders to shield us from contradictory information.”  We skim over, or discount, data that does not support our beliefs. We get stuck in the narrow space of present reality instead of creating space for broad innovation.

To counter our tendencies to rely solely on information that matches our assumptions and to depend on information from known sources, we can act to expand narrow thinking. Consider the following options for avoiding confirmation bias:

  1. Allocate time for reflection, analysis, and imagination. The KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) has only an element of truth in it. Dynamic factors and new realities are rarely simple. H. L. Mencken captured this truth by saying, “There is always an easy solution to every human problem” neat, plausible and wrong.” We must go beyond what has always been done if we are to stretch our capacity and secure our future.
  2. Identify “motivated reasoning” where rational analysis twists to substantiate current practices. Retaining existing procedures offers comfort, but blinds us to wiser alternatives. Smart choices mean we must consider new ideas to address the cresting waves of change. Standing still in a quicksand environment is terminal. As Einstein stated, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking we used when we created them.”
  3.  Recognize the importance of asking probing questions. As Dr. E. Edwards Deming remarked, “If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.” Wisdom requires the search for new possibilities and alternatives. Expand your mindsets to see around corners, detect trends, examine implications and identify new opportunities.
  4. Accept the fact that the greatest obstacle to our future is not ignorance, but the illusion that we already know all that we need to know. Greater specialization has produced benefits but it also introduces problems. Specialists often adopt a narrow frame of reference and lose sight of interdependencies embedded in the big picture. We must dig deeper and search more broadly to detect new knowledge and insights by asking what is new, what have we learned and what novel resources or business models should we tap. Mark Twain observed, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It is what we know for sure that just ain’t so.
  5. Resist peer pressure and the temptation to go along with the crowd. We may become caught up by enthusiasm for a new initiative but step lightly and don’t just go with the flow, because group-think usually conceals flaws. For a secure future, go outside the established parameters and strategically consider all mindsets to fully understand alternatives, risks, and opportunities.

We cannot stop the world–and we should not. Our future lies in embracing possibility thinking, adopting new mindsets, and leveraging change instead of watching from the sidelines. We can learn to see events as they are, address our mental traps, apply critical thinking practices and commit to casting aside status quo thinking in favor of proactive wisdom. The future is where we will spend the rest of our lives. We must study to understand trends that position us for continual success.

This article was first published at BizCatalyst360.

Success Mindsets For Astute Scanning

By: Dr. Mary Lippitt | March 20, 2017

We all recognize that better decisions follow reliable data collection. However, obtaining it remains a challenge. Too often we accept a penetrating glimpse of the obvious or past practice since it is safe and efficient to keep doing what we have always done.  Unfortunately, this tendency keeps us in an echo chamber where old assumptions reside and reverberate.mindsets

Generating valuable current information requires a new approach. We just cannot wish for insight, we must adopt practices that ensure that we really know what has happened, what is happening and what will happen. Otherwise, we pay a heavy price for being blindsided, surprised or shocked by events. Volkswagen’s emission control software or Wells Fargo cross-selling requirements illustrate the dangers of siloed thinking and superficial analysis.  These failures were not a matter of low IQ or inexperience. They were created by constrained frames of reference or restricted mindsets. Just as looking only one way before crossing the street is foolhardy, relying on one slice of information before making an organizational decision is wrong.

The term mindset has various interpretations. My definition centers on a willingness to investigate all situational facets when confronting complexity.   Let me give an everyday example, if you saw raining pouring down outside, you will likely decide to wear a raincoat rather than a wool jacket.   Your decision is independent of personal style or education.   Your choice depended on current information or realities. Certainly, organizational conundrums are more complex than picking outerwear but the process of assessing conditions before acting applies to both personal and business decisions.  We must collect and weigh information to make smart decisions. Lazy thinking is risky behavior. We need to keep on top of events to excel.

Exploring six organizational mindsets deliver success and avoid blunders.  The six mindsets cover what:

  • new or innovative offerings can be launched;
  • customers want and need;
  • systems, infrastructure, and policies improve alignment;
  • processes improve the bottom line;
  • staffing and culture support sustained excellence; and
  • trends and alliance create new opportunities.

Understanding and using six operational aspects does not require a Ph.D.  Instead, we need a willingness to collect information and this collection can be easily guided by a checklist of questions for each mindset. While checklists appear simplistic, professionals rely on them. Surgeons, lawyers, and pilots consult checklists to confirm all aspects have been covered. Leaders who use a success mindset checklist develop a complete environmental scan.

Success follows a “ready, aim, fire” sequence, where being ready requires a complete investigation, aiming evaluates alternatives and firing is the decision on action to take. Certainly reducing the process to “ready, fire” appears tempting but it hides a high cost. Complexity and change demand full reality check. And, it pay-offs by avoiding having to spend time recalling, re-issuing or repairing misguided decisions. Astute scanning advances your reputation conserves resources and ensures delivers desired results.

First published at:  https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/success-mindsets-for-astute-scanning/

Hidden Figures Reveal How To Be A Continuous Learner

By Dr. Mary Lippitt | February 10, 2017learning

The movie Hidden Figures has justifiably won acclaim not only for the story and acting. Octavia Spencer’s portrayal of Dorothy Vaughan also depicted the need to keep her skills up to date. She realized her job as a mathematician was likely in jeopardy when NASA installed an early IBM computer. She saw the handwriting on the wall and prepared for her and her staff’s future by learning FORTRAN.    When programmers were needed, she and her staff transitioned seamlessly into new higher paying positions.

We can also be proactive and prepare for our future by:

  1. Scanning and staying alert to trends both in and outside the organization and discipline. If you are a professional driver, what do drones, driverless cars, and automation mean for your job?
  2. Observing trends in your organization. Who was promoted and why were they promoted? What career paths have worked for others? Will greater specialization or general managerial skills be in more demand?
  3. Finding mentors who can serve as reality testing sounding board and source of career guidance. In addition, those outside your chain of command cab share their experience and suggest new paths.
  4. Proposing improvements to existing processes or practices. Displaying initiative and creativity increases visibility, while also expanding your skill set.
  5. Building a professional network as well as a personal network. Join your professional association to learn what skills are being sought. In addition, professional associations have job boards that obtain early identification of opportunities.
  6. Preparing a developmental plan for the next six months. Record your goals and milestones to increases the likelihood they will be accomplished. Update it regularly with your manager.
  7. Seeking honest feedback from peers, managers, customers and direct reports. Feedback not only can reveal our blind spots but it lets others know of your interest in improvement.
  8. Attending developmental special events, seminars, and workshops. Valuable nuggets can be gained from both topic and participant exchanges.
  9. Learning from your mistakes as much as your successes. The only failure is life is not to learn from a disappointment or misstep.
  10. Developing your strategic thinking ability. While daily pressures consume our schedules, we may overlook the importance of planning for our future.

The title, Hidden Figures, refers both to uncovering new space flight data and the racial bias that concealed talented people. And it also reveals the importance of recognizing emerging trends and preparing for our future. After all the future is where we will all be spending the rest of our lives.

First Published by: https://www.bizcatalyst360.com/hidden-figures-reveal-how-to-be-a-continuous-learner/

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