Unlocking Thoughtful Decisions: Rigorous vs. Lazy Thinking
A manager's job includes fostering a culture of thoughtful decision-making
Sally is a new manager, overseeing a team that's brimming with enthusiasm and ideas. But, more often than not, their suggestions seem impulsive and lack consideration for the bigger picture, so Sally keeps rejecting them. After a while, the team gets the impression that the company is not so welcoming to new ideas as it claimed to be. The overall progress is stagnating. It's time to introduce the concept of rigorous thinking.
Rigorous thinking involves taking the time to ponder and examine a decision systematically, asking critical questions every step of the way.
Its counterpart, lazy thinking, is a haphazard approach – tossing ideas around to see if any of them catch, without considering the implications or how they might work in practice. Ultimately, lazy thinking is a surefire path to failure.
Practicing rigorous thinking means being prepared to advocate for and defend your ideas, understanding the upsides, downsides, trade-offs, and potential second-order effects.
How not to pitch an idea
"Hey boss, why don’t we try [insert random tactic that competitors are doing]?"
👎 Result: You're left feeling discouraged by your manager's negativity, while your manager is burdened by decision fatigue from having to evaluate every half-baked idea.
In such scenarios, managers are constantly forced to correct their team's flawed logic and find diplomatic ways to say "this isn't a good idea" without crushing their spirit.
Let's see a better approach.
So good they can’t ignore you
"Hey boss, I propose we ____. The benefits include ____, while the downside is ____. However, we can mitigate risk with a small-scale experiment by doing ____.”
👍 Result: You feel empowered and your role becomes more influential, while your manager experiences less decision fatigue.
Here, individual contributors and managers collaborate to test assumptions, fostering a culture of idea validation rather than binary yes or no decisions.
The manager’s role
As a manager, your role is to ask insightful questions, encouraging your team to think deeply about their ideas instead of rushing to provide answers. Some questions to kick off the conversation could be:
“That's a great start. What would be the next steps?”
“What does success look like?”
“What's the challenging part?”
“What's your take? I'd like to hear your perspective.”
Adopting a curious and supportive attitude demonstrates that you're right there alongside your team, believing in their capabilities. By posing difficult questions, you empower them to find solutions, refine their ideas, and take ownership of their work.
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