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Archive for decision-making

How to Improve Your Critical Thinking

Improve your critical and creative thinking using mind maps

Slow down your thought process a bit by creating clarity instead of speed.  Analyze options including pros and cons.  View and share the options considered.  Explore alternatives on paper or your computer screen in one visual that you add to, change, cross out as you go.  Mind maps are easy to follow, easy to review, and easy to use as an explanation.  

Yes, everyone can draw using stick figures

Drawing or diagraming information you want to explain helps everyone understand it better, including you. When you sketch using stick figures, or flow diagrams, or a mind maps, or any way to help visualization, you will be able to show as well as verbally explain. The process of doing the diagram helps you simplify the ideas in your own mind. The process of explaining using a diagram helps others understand, and later remember, what you showed them.

Your Mental Shortcuts

Mental shortcuts, we all make them throughout the day. In a sense, they are necessary coping mechanisms your brain has been developing your whole life. Because there is no way to pay equal attention to everything within eyesight, earshot, and close enough to touch, our brain has developed filters to let in what it believes you need to know and leave out a large majority of what is going on around you.
Consider for a moment how you function during your daily drive or ride, or even walk, to work.
Most of what you pass by is a blur. Most of what you pass you take little or no interest. So much so that when you arrive at your destination you will not remember seeing or hearing most of what was actually there.
Your cognitive bias made those decisions for you. The filters you have built up to protect yourself from over stimulation and clutter worked.
But, and that is a big but, did you miss something that in the past wasn’t important but now is? Did you assume you knew what happened but really didn’t?
We can’t function in a busy world without our filters and we can’t take for granted that we didn’t miss anything important.
So what can you do? Ask others what they saw and heard. Ask for other viewpoints, other experiences, to add to your own. Be open minded about what you might have missed or added into a scene because of your filters, your own cognitive biases. They, too, have biases. Together you may both get a more complete picture.
Ask open questions and listen openly to the answers.

Are You a Thought Leader?

Thought leader
Is this a compliment or an insult?
If you are truly one of the knowledgeable ones in a particular field, others may be looking up to you, expecting you to know more than they do. They may come to you with questions and take what you say as truth.

We can learn from what we know about Socrates (470 – 399 BC), after all these years, not to jump in with a solution, an answer. First ask many questions so that you both are thinking more deeply about the problem. In many cases the person with the problem will discover the answer.

One of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “seek first to understand before seeking to be understood,” is a more current reminder to listen, ask questions, learn, before offering your thoughts, even if you are considered a thought leader.

Which is More Important? Creativity or the Ability to Inspire

We can find research to support which ever side of an argument you need. Is that hard to believe? Here is an example.
I do seminars on creativity and powerbrainstorming (™) so this research supports its importance: “according to the Adobe® (Nasdaq:ADBE) State of Create global benchmark study. The research shows 8 in 10 people feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth and nearly two-thirds of respondents feel creativity is valuable to society, yet a striking minority – only 1 in 4 people – believe they are living up to their own creative potential.”

80% say creativity is most important.

But another study by IBM of 1700 CEOs by AMA of 50,000 leaders proved’ 80% say the ability to inspire (which I also teach and do seminars about) is the most important trait for leaders and teams.

So here is a take-away, both are important and you will get different statistics depending on how you ask the questions.

What if Someone Asks for Your Help With a Problem They are Having?

When an employee, family member, or friend brings you problem they are facing, how can you tell if they want solutions from you or for you to just listen?

Ask them.

Also if they are looking for a solution, ask first what they have tried or thought they could try. Get them thinking first.

Then if it does come down to offering your ideas, offer options, plural, so they can choose, and make it clear that these are ideas that if they choose something different you won’t be hurt. The choice is still their own.

When you are feeling defensive

Tell me more about that…

When you are feeling defensive the last thing you might want is to hear more negative comments. But if you show openness to hear what the other person is saying it can change the mood and tone of the ‘conversation.’

It also gives you time to reflect. What is prompting the comments? Why are you feeling defensive? Is there some truth you would want to know? Is there something you want to acknowledge? Rather than deny, perhaps you want to say, ‘there might be some truth in what you are saying.’ I didn’t realize, or I didn’t mean what it sounded like.

Making Decisions With Too Much Data

Making decisions with too much data is just as difficult and risky as making a decision with too little data.

There are ways to be logical and move forward in either case.

With too little data, you may want to step back and list or mind map the missing pieces. Which of them are critical, which, if known, would lead to very different answers, which can be discovered before moving on, and which would have little impact and are not worth pursuing. Then you can seek out or make estimates on the missing data noting, as you move forward, what needs a comment or footnote.

With too much data, again you may want to organize what you have into categories, perhaps with sticky notes you can cluster on a board or on a mind map. It’s important to be able to see the big picture all at one time. Then you can highlight, circle or bring to the forefront, the groups that will impact results the most. The others can go on an imaginary parking lot or into the background so you can focus on the most important without distractions.

In neither case, too much or too little data, do you want to feel so stuck that nothing happens. Doing nothing is a decision, too, but one that happens to you instead of by you.

Skepticism vs Cynicism

Skepticism vs Cynicism

Both attitudes force us to question what we and others are doing or suggesting. Both can have some healthy self searching and lead to good debates. But skepticism can end in great support for new ideas once questions are explored and answered while cynicism doesn’t give in or give up.

Be careful of people who are cynics but say or think they are skeptics.

Ask questions like what would it take to change your mind? How will you support this new effort if the majority of evidence says to move ahead?

Business Meetings

Your Business Meetings

Even if your company is working hard on inclusiveness and diversity, it is important to pay attention to how you get everyone equal ‘floor time’ in the meeting. How do you do that?

One way is to use silent and anonymous idea generation. Hand out a pile of sticky note paper or 3×5 cards. Challenge everyone to come up with a minimum of 5 ways to solve a problem you’ve been working on or a new way to market a declining product. No talking and no sharing during this initial thinking and writing time.

Then all ideas get put up equally on a flip chart or white board. Organize by categories or similarity.

All ideas are valuable, some will work on their own. Most will work better in combination with others on the board. Some can be expanded by discussion.

You may decide to organize the ideas by how long they would take to do a trial or to implement in general, or by cost, effort, or ROI. You may even decide to try out the most outrageous first because standing out is better than blending in and being boring.