Think About Thinking

The evolutionary history of humans from early apes to today’s highly evolved beings is as exciting as the complexities involved in the cognitive development. We are the only species who has the gifted powers which comes with the evolution of thinking and development of the exceptional grey matter.

We have shed our archaic behaviors; but still our cognizance is driven by deep routed primitive pattern of behaviors and actions. We are still akin to our early ancestors when it comes to basic thinking skills. Unknown has always been fearful, superiority over the herds has always been giving us pleasure, lurking danger still make our adrenalin gushed through our blood. Examples are numerous signifying that we are still driven by impulses, survival instincts, and we are still primitive beings somewhere in the dark, unchartered corner of our brain.

During the course of evolution humans gained the capability of higher level of thinking, clearly distinct from Impulse or primitive thinking. This includes “rational, fact based thinking” and “creative thinking”.

This universal truth is applicable to every human irrespective of his race, creed, domain and profession. I keep my thoughts limited to professional domain; the domain of managers and leaders. Diversified situations and multitude of problems are demanding on managers many a times with a high probability of managers getting into the trap of impulse thinking. This doesn’t work most of the times in today’s complex and challenging corporate environment.

Successful managers get themselves graduated to higher level thinking. This higher domain of thinking might be in the process of evolution and will take its own course till it comes naturally to us.

There are three distinctive ways of thinking in which follows its natural course in development of managers in corporate ladder. The only difference is that impulse thinking comes naturally and other two modes of “rational, fact based thinking” and “creative thinking” needs practice and efforts to apply.

Think about thinking

Impulse Thinking

We are not getting customer-because-our prices are higher, people are not performing-hence-motivation needs to be enhanced, sale is not happening-so-we should work harder; are some of the examples of impulse thinking trap for managers. They fail to think beyond the flash reasoning offered by primitive part. This leads to perceptions, and applying “one-size-fits-all” approach. “This works earlier so it will work today” is tempting but not at all a correct approach. This trap is convincing enough and blocks the way to further levels of thinking of looking at the things from different perspectives- “thinking out of the box”. This thinking out of the box doesn’t come naturally to us.

Fact Based Thinking

The next level, the hallmark of great managers is rational and fact based thinking. As I said earlier, this is not mankind’s natural domain. This needs years of training and practice and good managers rely more on this fact based thinking and take their decisions based on this trait.

Getting into rational, fact based thinking will get us to the different perspective. Lets look into the examples that I cited above. Not getting customer may be due to not-so-good service, poor quality, consistent complaints etc. Good managers analyze these based on hard facts, diagnose and then treat the malady.

Carrot and stick approach is as primitive as human race. Non performance may have many parameters like lack of proper training, poor customer segmentation, lack of brand building measures etc. Hiring process itself might have to be looked into. Problems can be tracked based on facts and figures and accordingly acted upon.

In the same way, sale may not be happening as managers may have to get into altogether different approach, sales model may need tweaking, customer segmentation may needs another look, product mix needs to be changed etc. Merely work harder than ever in the same old traditional way is akin to fall in impulse thinking mode.

Any problem, dissected into pieces, seen through rational, fact based mirror get the managers to the root cause and apply remedial actions.

Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is at the highest level of evolution and hallmark of great leaders. This goes beyond facts and figures; this relates more to visualizing the future. This has more of strategic domain where leaders visualize the bigger picture, have the hawk eye’s view; and align the resources to move towards worm’s eye view, the more micro level.

It is at this level of thinking where great leaders are getting distinctive from great managers. This level is attained after years of practice and experience and might have natural progression for exceptional managers transforming gradually to visionary leaders.

Exceptional and growing organizations move from Creative to fact based thinking. They have visionary leaders who are great creative thinkers. Steve Jobs of Apple, Sergey Brin and Larry page of google, Bill Gates of Microsoft are some of the front runners in the list of creative thinkers and great leaders.

In the matter of fact our brain is an interesting mix of primitive and more evolved domains of fact based and creative thinking. During the due course of going up the corporate ladder one moves from first level to highest level of cognition. Its up to a person to put conscious efforts to shed the impulse thinking mode and graduate to higher level of thinking and decision making. This is critical for the pupa to transform into butterflies; transforming executives to great managers and subsequently to visionary leaders.

Lets put our best foot forward, get our conscious efforts towards higher level of cognition and strive to become exceptional managers and great leaders.

Lets Think About Thinking….

Article Courtesy:

Hardeep Handa

Hardeep Handa

I am a seasoned marketing professional. I am ardent reader and avid writer. Management and technology equally excite me. I write regularly in my blog and

You may also like...