Leaders say they want to boost creativity, critical thinking and agility to improve performance and manage change. Research studies confirm the accuracy of those statements. Who wouldn’t want their staff to be quick on their feet, display ingenuity, offer critical insights, or make effective strategic choices? However, there is no consensus on how to boost agile thinking or increase brain capacity beyond the standard 10% utilization. The track record of using brain exercises, problem-solving techniques, brainstorm gatherings and reward programs indicate a failure to deliver.
One hopeful option is the practice of integrating agility into everyday activities. Consider the impact of changing long-standing practices such as the standard staff meeting, which rarely engages the whole staff, or outlawing the practice of shooting ideas down before there is any chance to really explore the concept. Small changes can have big results. Conformity, habit, traditions, silos and robotic responses limit opportunities to see options and long-term implications.
Shifting our lens to form new perspectives, employing divergent thinking, asking questions, identifying patterns, connecting the dots, and attentive listening supports agile thinking. But these practices require a framework to increase confidence, employ broad analysis, and exercise nimble thinking.
The structure I use to ensure critical, strategic and agile thinking is the Success Mindsets template. It ensures a comprehensive data collection, careful scrutiny of that information and generating alternative paths. Using this framework prevents me from jumping to conclusions, relying on past solutions or remaining boxed-in by habit. It also forces me to review current conditions, assess what is possible and set my priority on what is probable.
The Success Mindsets focal points target organizational results, including (1) developing new products, (2) serving customers, (3) designing organizational systems and policies, (4) Improving quality and ROI, (5) engaging and retaining key talent, and (6) capturing new business opportunities. Having multiple focal points short circuits the stimulus-response mode to encourage full analysis before addressing complex and changing conditions.
The Success Mindsets Checklist and the Brilliant or Blunder Action Guide serve as primers to develop expertise in collecting and effectively using each Success Mindset. One exercise is to develop a solution from each of the six perspectives. Being able to shift points of view spurs agile thinking. Critical and strategic thinking is not a matter of IQ, motivation, or personal style. Instead, it is a decision to check assumptions, identify and weigh options, and deal with complex or novel issues with an open mind. To paraphrase a popular quote from Albert Einstein, we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that was used to create them.
We must shift our thinking, open our filters, confer with different points of view, generate creative solutions, reflect on alternatives, and select the best path forward. Agile thinking means a commitment to acting only after identifying what is possible, applicable, and valuable at this time.
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