October 20, 2017


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


In this issue of the Water Cooler we touch on the value of critical thinking, a new approach to bring introverts into brainstorming, questions that help resolve conflict, delegation techniques, and using a “we can, if…” mindset.  Enjoy!


1. How To Hire Critical Thinkers

Are there too many “alternative facts” in your organization? Do you need more people who can pick apart a misleading argument?

Consultant Brook Manville, in his Forbes column, suggests your enterprise might benefit from hiring and developing critical thinkers, and to find help he turned to Georgetown University Professor William Gormley, author of The Critical Advantage.

Critical thinking, they stress, is not just criticizing other people’s ideas.  It’s about considering and re-considering your own views in light of evidence presented. “There are three elements of critical thinking: Doubt, self-doubt, and the search for good evidence,” Gormley says. It should be collaborative — civil and constructive.

When hiring:  Mention the specific skill in job postings. Screen candidates for their critical thinking abilities. Existing tests tend to be narrow and academic, Gormley says; instead, engage candidates in a situational interview.

He suggests asking candidates to talk about a decision or challenge in their former job, or more generically, something they wrestled with earlier in their life.

“Best of all might be to give them a specific challenge in your business today — and then ask how they would break it down. Listen for how they think about evidence, how much skepticism and also self-doubt they admit as they work through the situation for you. Focus less on their overall ‘answer’ than the thinking process they follow, and the style and personal demeanor they bring to the discussion.”


2. Revolving Door Brainstorming Can Help Introverts

One size of brainstorming does not fit all. In Fast Company, consultants Judah Pollack and Olivia Fox Cabane say the traditional method of throwing everybody into one room and watching the sparks fly works well for extroverts but can be challenging for introverts who need more time for processing data and are easily overstimulated.

You can help them by unlocking the door and letting people come and go throughout the session. “Not everyone has to be there all the time while the brainstorm is taking place. Different people have different tolerance levels for the process. Don’t force introverts to stay longer than they can be of use,” they write.

You could even invite introverts to arrive later, saving time in which they would otherwise be listening to extroverts thinking out loud — a highly productive activity for extroverts but exhausting for introverts.

During the interval, they could consider the ideas by themselves, their best way of thinking. When they arrive, give a recap and declare a three-minute pause for silent reflection in which everyone writes down their thoughts, a way for the introverts to process what they heard.

Pause every 30 minutes and ask the introverts what they have to share, since they may have been reticent to speak up otherwise.

When the brainstorm is over, invite any introverts who’ve left back into the room to look over the notes on the board and ask them to think about the topic overnight. Revolving door brainstorming can help introverts.


3. Questions To Resolve Conflict

In conflict, there can be a tendency for everything to speed up. Instead, slow down and ask these five questions shared by consultant Karin Hurt on her Let’s Grow Leaders web site:

  • What are we trying to achieve? Do you know what outcome you want and have you shared it, or listened to the other person’s goal?
  • What is this conflict really about? Conflicts, at the start, are not about what you’re talking about.
  • What am I expecting? What are your expectations from the situation and, again, have you shared that out loud?
  • What’s the best way to refresh communications? Perhaps a break is needed – a time out, or a chance to do something else with the other person that restores collegiality.
  • How can you achieve results and also enhance relationships? “Conflict is valuable and often inevitable whenever two or more people are passionate about creating something remarkable. It’s important to keep both the results and the relationships in mind as you’re working through the conversation,” she writes.


4. Nostalgia, Patience, And Queues

There are various mathematical notions from queuing theory that can help you with handling clients who must wait in line. But here’s an emotional idea: Seed the waiting area with elements of nostalgia.

“Once consumers are made to feel nostalgia, they become more patient and feel that they’re not waiting as long,” Xun (Irene) Hung reports in Harvard Business Review on eight studies with American and Asian participants.

She says something as simple as nostalgic music can produce this effect, reminding people of moments of love and joy, savouring that memory in this situation.


5. Zingers

  • The illusion of control: Consultant Wally Bock says many people assume if you’re the boss you’re in control: “But it’s truly amazing how much you don’t control. You don’t control your boss or your team members. You don’t control the company environment or the economic situation or the personal lives of your team members. In fact, there’s only one thing you control. You control your behaviour.” (Source: Three Star Leadership)
  • Email impatience: Avoid repeat-emailing, sending many emails in a row without giving adequate time for a response, which makes you seem pushy. What’s adequate time? Forty-eight hours, according to consultant Peter Economy. (Source: Inc.com)
  • A warmer way to the top: Warmth is a differentiating factor for leadership success, says Loran Nordgren, an associate professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School. A study of 50,000 managers found that if you’re seen as low-warmth, you have a 1-in-2000 chance to make the top quartile of effectiveness as a leader. (Source: ThriveGlobal)
  • Related to warmth is curiosity: April Underwood, a vice-president at enterprise software company Slack, says you should get to know what the people next to you are working on, developing relationships with them. If you’re in marketing, meet someone in accounting. People will be flattered when you take an interest in what they’re doing. (Source: Shepa Learning Company)
  • Judging options: Two questions to ask when you hit a fork in the road: If both alternatives fail, which will you be glad you tried? If both alternatives succeed, which will you be glad you’re doing? (Source: Leadership Freak)


6. Q&A With 8020Info:
    Be More Comfortable Delegating

Question:  My new position requires me to delegate more than I’m comfortable with, so how do I delegate effectively without micromanaging?


8020Info Associate Matthew Wood responds:

There is a big difference between a great individual contributor and an effective leader. Jesse Sostrin, a leadership and organization development consultant, suggests a few main strategies that can help you become a better delegator and leader:

Inspire their commitment: When delegating, employees need to understand why something matters and how they are able to fit into the solution. Equally important in the early stages of a project is identifying the big picture and defining success.

“Be clear about what a successful outcome looks like, feels like, smells like; what it does and when it is due,” leadership coach David Dye writes on the Lead Change Group Blog.

Engage at the right level: Fear of being a micro-manager makes it easy to go to the other extreme and delegate tasks without following up.

On his blog, former Thomas Nelson publisher Michael Hyatt recommends five steps for improved delegation:

  • Assign the task to one person. Ask them to confirm that they understand the assignment and have accepted responsibility for it.
  • Articulate a specific outcome. Make clear exactly what you are expecting the other person to deliver.
  • Include your delivery timetable. Some projects have hard, fast deadlines while others may not be as time sensitive.
  • Make yourself available for consultation. You want to be a resource, not a micro-manager. And stay focused on the outcome rather than the process.
  • Track the delegated task. This is crucial since not everyone assigned a task will have a good task management system in place.


7.  From Our Water Cooler:
     From Can’t Because to We Can-If

We appreciated the warm reception given our recent presentation at Disrupt Kingston. We pitched “We Can-If” — a frame of mind focused on using vexing constraints to jumpstart discovery of really clever, transforming solutions.

We’re all susceptible to “We can’t, because” thinking. We don’t have the time. We don’t have the funds. We don’t know how. We don’t have the authority.

In A Beautiful Constraint: How to Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, Adam Morgan and Mark Barden set out how to master a mindset that crushes constraints.

Can we view barriers as inspiration?
Do we think like victims? Like entrepreneurs reaching for a quick-fix workaround? Or, are we inspired to seek a more transformative solution? We first need to check our:

  • Mindset: Do we believe a new solution is actually possible?
  • Motivation: How much do we really want to make it happen?
  • Method: Do we know how to start?

Do we dare to challenge our path dependence?
Yesterday’s path traps us in subtle dependencies, old ways of thinking, tired processes, and worn-out solutions. We need to shake off locked-in assumptions that limit what we believe is possible, knowing the grip of the past can persist a long time: the design of Roman chariots 2,000 years ago, for example, determined the width of our railway tracks today.

Can we define a catalytic question?
Morgan and Barden focus on defining a propelling question — not one that’s merely stimulating (what will customers of the future look like?) or just difficult (we have no money). Perhaps we need to stimulate our thinking by considering what may seem an “impossible” quest.

At a minimum, we need to establish some real discomfort and tension between the ambitious goals we have (e.g. for outstanding experiences, growth or impact) and the limitations of time, resources or methods that suffocate our opportunities.

The trick is to bind a bold ambition to a challenging constraint.

This makes the problem crisp, and the tradeoffs clear: What exactly is the problem we’re solving? Have we considered all our options? Can an inventive approach transcend the tradeoffs?

The Audi formula racing team, for example, asked: How can we win if we can’t design a faster car? That forced them to think in a new direction — fuel efficiency, and switching to diesel. With fewer pit-stops needed, they won the Grand Prix three years in a row.

The authors map ways to discover “We Can-If” solutions:

  • Thinking of the situation from a fresh perspective.
  • Introducing something new, or mixing elements together in a new way.
  • Substituting one step or component for another, or removing one.
  • Engaging partners, leveraging resources, or tapping into new sources of funding.

It takes resolve, abundance thinking and emotional fuel to keep pushing beyond our accepted boundaries. We all have dream goals. Don’t hide behind “We can’t, because” — instead, reposition those barriers and use constraints as inspiration to design new “We Can-If” opportunities.

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8020Info helps strategy teams think better together as they develop and effectively implement research / stakeholder consultations, strategic plans, change and marketing communications. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.


8.  Closing Thought 

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson