Thinking Effectively Model

The thinking effectively model is proposed to assist the leader-engineer or leader-scientist in thinking in an orderly, effective, and complete manner.

All of us respond to the world around us in complex cognitive ways. A detailed description of the mind's inner workings is well outside the scope of this book and certainly well beyond my capability. But it will be useful here to take a deep breath and consider a simple model of the mind's inner workings.

Most people – and this is certainly true of leaders, who by deinition “inluence people to make positive change” – are interested in moving from sensing something to getting results. It is the nature of leaders to measure their own success in terms of actions taken and positive results achieved. Leaders, like engineers and scientists, exist in order to make things better.

Many of us believe that the best leaders are action oriented, and we tend to admire those leaders who are able to move quickly from sensing something to doing something.

1 David Garvin and Patrick G. Cullen, Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads (Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2010). Sensing → Doing

The common view is that leaders see or hear something – they sense it – and then they are able to successfully execute an idea from that limited input. This, however, often has less than optimal results. The admonition “just do it” rarely if ever works. It works well enough when we sense we are out of shape and start to run and lift weights. But even in cases like that, it would be better to think about how far we should be running and how much weight we should be lifting. The argument most often advanced for going from sensing straight to doing is that it saves time. “Thinking takes too much time,” people suggest. Yet it has been shown again and again by engineers engaged in the planning and execution of capital projects that when enough time is given to doing effective, up-front design work, costly mistakes of omission and commission are minimized and the length of time from start to inish is often quicker than the “just do it” approach.

The admonition “think before doing” is a practical approach that minimizes both errors and time. So, the process to be recommended is

Sensing → Thinking → Getting Results

The next section will address the following question: How complete should the thinking process be? (See Figure 4.1.)

Figure 4.1 Thinking Effectively Model

Developing Meaning

This step requires us to take our sensations as inputs and construct ideas. To develop meaning, ideas of all kinds – confusing ones, insightful ones, ideas that come long after the sensations have gone – need to be constructed. Ideas will come if aspiring leaders are open to them – if they have prepared themselves by developing goals, ambitions, high levels of mental energy, and high levels of motivation, and if they have the will to receive ideas. When our thoughts have value to us, we hold on to them; when they don't, we let them go. Whether they have value will depend on how well they align with our beliefs, philosophy, and principles.

Beliefs: Those ideas we hold to be true.

Philosophy: A composite of those beliefs we are willing to live by.

Principles: Guidelines to help us turn our philosophy into action.

By this approach, leaders develop ideas that align with their personal values. For role model leaders, that alignment is utterly necessary. Without it, our ideas will be empty of meaning for others, for they will mean nothing to you, and your followers will realize this intuitively. You have to be genuinely committed to your ideas or your followers will know instinctively that you are not. Conversely, if they know your commitment is genuine, the way is open for you to inluence them to work relentlessly to put your ideas into practice. We always knew that Kalev was deeply committed to his causes. He was very clear about his values for the work we were doing.

That tells you why beliefs, philosophy, and principles are important: they are the values that other people see in you. From this process of aligning values with ideas, the following answers emerge:

• An answer to why we think the way we do about ideas.

• An answer to why we value one idea over similar other ideas. Quite simply, we value those ideas that relect our beliefs, philosophy, and principles.

All of which takes us naturally to the next step in the process.

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