Would You Choose the Red or Blue Pill if you were in the Matrix?

In the film,The Matrix,the main character, Neo,is offered a choice. He could take a red pill representing a desire to live in the real world as a free person or take a blue pill and remain secure in an illusionary world where he could hold on to his established beliefs, practices, and expectations. His choice was change or stability.  It was an either-or choice to be made immediately.

In the movie Neo takes the red pill, rejecting a fabricated world to gain increased awareness and discomfort and the risks that follow.  He elected reality and change over staying in a fictitious world offering predictability and safety.  With only two choices and pressure from Morpheus, encouragement from Trinity, and pursuit by agents he had little time to make this momentous decision.

Organizations today often cast major decisions as either-or options, when, in reality, there are few binary choices.  For example, what if Neo asked if he could take both pills?  What if he asked Morpheus for additional time?  What if he asked if there was a purple pill? With only two polarizing possibilities, he elected not to stay shackled to an impersonal manipulative system and change the matrix.

Leaders today must reject dualistic thinking and apply critical thinking to assess multiple options.  This does not require an advanced degree, membership in Mensa or a lofty title.  The practice merely requires an open mind and a willingness to shift mindsets to address current conditions.  Adopting the practice of probing six situational mindsets enables leaders to discover alternatives and weigh options.  It also engages others, surfaces new information, and creates common ground.  The six mindsets questions cover every organizational aspect.

  • The Inventing Mindset probes options for new products/services, creative designs, and new synergies.
  • The Catalyzing Mindsetfocuses on serving the customer and building the organization’s brand.
  • The Developing Mindset creates seamless infrastructure, integrated systems, and effective polices.
  • The Performing Mindset targets process improvement, quality, workflow efficiencies, and ROI.
  • The Protecting Mindset centers on developing talent, collaboration, agility, and bench strength.
  • The Challenging Mindsetevaluates challenges, trends, risks, and opportunities for sustained success.

These six mindsets combat our natural tendency to rely on past practice, accept only confirming information,jump quickly into action, and tolerate limited alternatives.  We can do better asking questions covering all six mindsets.  A simple mindset checklist will prevent hasty action.

Now some resist the idea of a checklist viewing it as a personal shortcoming.  However, lawyers, doctors, and pilots use them.  The world is too complex and there are too many variables to juggle and weigh complex issues.   If we have to-do lists, grocery lists and digital schedules, we already recognize ourinability to balance all of the information.

If we adopt an inclusive understanding of our circumstances and choices, we will find more alternatives. May be there was a purple pill option for Neo if he had asked.  What questions should you be asking right now?

4 Ways to Smash the Barriers to Critical Thinking

Many leaders exhibit a tendency to jump intoaction.  When a problem is identified there must be an immediate response.  There appears to be an ingrained “just do it” mentality on the assumption it will produce results as well as admiration.   What is overlooked is the option for a pause between learning about a situation and responding to it.  The pause enables information gathering and analysis.   It also acknowledges recognizes that no one, no matter how talented, can master the complex issues facing us today.

The practice of gaining input can be called brainstorming, consulting, buzz groups, task teams, or crowdsourcing.  But these work only when they are employed,  when everyone believes they can contribute,  and when everyone feels that it is safe to offer an opinion.

The lack of critical thinking cited in many CEO surveys encouraged me to poll 100 people about the barriers they experience in practicing critical thinking. The results are:

  • 42%  Identified time pressure or the lack of time to consider options
  • 20%  Expressed fear of rejection, ridicule or retribution
  • 20% Replied nothing will happen as a result; They were resigned to accept that status quo
  • 9%   Doubted their ability to add anything important
  • 5%   Feared that it will mean just mean more work for them
  • 4%   Stated that no one required them to think critically

Organizations are wasting valuable human resources if insights and concerns never surface. And reversing the top concerns require only minor adjustments.  Consider implementing one or more the following:

  1. Concerns over time constraints can be overcomeby setting aside 5 to 10 minutes of a staff meeting to explore an idea or ask for an issue that needs attention. It can also be encouraged by reminding staff that preventing problems saves time and effort rather than having to resolve setbacks later.And, the cost of blind spots continues to grow.
  2. Creating a “safe” environment by encouraging and respecting different points of view. Why not start your next staff meeting by asking “what have we learned since our last meeting?”  Another option would be to appoint a rotating “devil’s advocate” who will critically examine proposals and raise issues. This is particularly important whenpotential benefits crowd out a comprehensive examination. The devil advocate can spotlight the need for deeper dive.  In business and physics for every action there is a reaction, and it is important to recognize ramifications before leaping into action.
  3. Every suggestion or proposal deserves a response. Clarification on what was done or why no action was taken must be shared. It showsrespects for the person who offered the suggestion and ensures further engagement.  Additionally, the contributor can learn about factors that can turn an apparent slam dunk into a pitfall.
  4. Build critical thinking confidence through coaching, usingan established checklist, and providingtime to reflect and confer with others. Recognize that not all critical thinking happens instantaneously.  It can require “soak time,”  whether it is in the shower or in the car. Confidence is also boosted when critical thinking is recognized, whether it was implemented or not.  Whatever the outcome, the practice deserves encouragement

Leaders and decision makers must recognize those that think out of the box as well as those that think inside it, and under it.  To paraphrase,Einstein, today’s problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that was used to create them. We must expand our thinking practices.

Bio

Dr. Mary Lippitt is the author of “Situational Mindsets: Targeting What Matters When it Matters”.  She founded Enterprise Management Ltd. to help leaders successfully navigate today’s challenges,  boost critical thinking, foster engagement, and deliver stellar results.  She can be reached at mary@situationalmindsets.com

“Reading this brilliant book was both a pleasure and a gift. Situational Mindsets has not only helped me to analyze my own leadership tendencies and skills, but it caused me to take notice of the changes I need to make within my own organization to gain a competitive advantage in today’s world.”

David M.R. Covey, CEO of SMCOV, Coauthor of Trap Tales

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