Tips � Learning How To Think Rather Than What To Think
By Michael Vaughan
Starting at an
early age, the accepted standard both of teaching and learning
focuses on what to think. In some cases, this approach proves
sufficient and even appropriate. But it can fail spectacularly in
the complex environments of today�s business world. In these complex
systems, learning how to think � how the pieces fit together � is as
important as (or more important than) the pieces themselves.
how to think is vital today. Organizations and workers are faced
with complex problems and situations on a daily basis, in which
what-to-think solutions are no longer effective. Here are five
practices that can help shift our thinking.
1) Seek to
understand the big picture.
Most of the
training and tools that leaders receive are good at assessing and
fixing a piece of the organizational system. Fixating on one thing
may improve that one thing, but most likely it will create multiple
new unintended issues. Leaders who establish a big-picture
perspective not only reduce unintended issues, they improve
collaboration among their teams because they will work together to
understand the system instead of finding someone to blame.
2) Seek to
understand the underlying behavior.
The harder a
leader pushes the system, the harder it will push back. The faster a
leader goes, the longer it will take to get there. Things tend to
get worse before they get better and the cure is often worse than
the disease. These underlying system principles explain why
leadership is difficult, and why those leaders who seek to
understand them are better equipped to address their team�s needs in
new and emerging situations.
If a leader
tries to change something in a direct, obvious way, the system is
going to treat those efforts like any other outside influence � do
its best to neutralize them. Leaders should understand that genuine
solutions require careful consideration of the possible short- and
long-term outcomes, to avoid the pitfalls that drain both the
emotional and intellectual energy from their teams.
4) Seek to
surface limiting beliefs.
ability to make quality decisions and solve problems is directly
proportional to their ability to suspend her judgment. If we look
for the root cause of failed efforts or unproductive meetings, it is
often tied to the biases, flawed mental models, or fears of those
involved. The more that leaders surface limiting beliefs, the more
productive and supportive at serving teams and making the tough
calls they will be.
5) Seek to
evolve a shared vision.
An idea can
only gain momentum if others believe in it; their hearts and minds
need to be invested in the idea for it to take root and grow. Too
often leaders are moving too quickly, overlooking the need for their
team to evolve a vision together. When a leader seeks alternative
perspectives and incorporates insights from others, only then do
leaders realize the sustainable power of their team.
are meant to help teams shed light on a situation by reframing it
from different perspectives. Ultimately, these different
perspectives improve thinking and increase the value that people �
as a team or an individual � can bring to an organization.
Vaughan is author of
Effect: Rethinking Thinking To Create Great Leaders and The
New Value Worker. He is CEO and Managing Director of The Regis
Company, whose leadership programs are designed to fundamentally
change the way leaders think. Vaughan is a leading authority on
serious games and business simulations, and holds degrees in
cognitive science and computer science from Colorado State