Monday, May 9, 2011

Take the Time to CONSIDER and You'll Get Better Results

The following book review appeared in Small Business Trends last week. I'm bringing it to you today because I've been reflecting on our tendency to jump into action when we should be taking the time to think things through a bit.

Online market research tools like MicroPoll, SurveySwipe, Pocket Survey and quick analysis of social media text might be pushing us to rush into action instead of doing what "Listening" implies -- and that is to stop and take the time the listen and think about what is being said, put it into context, consider several alternatives and pick the best alternative.  

Daniel Patrick Forrester compiles studies, research and insight that will certainly make you think!

Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective ThinkingI always like to say that I’m on the “Get Rich Slow Plan” mainly because I need to feel good about the fact that I haven’t quite figured out how to make a million dollars in 30 days.  Well, guess what?  I’ve just found out that slowing down is a good thing!

At least, that’s what I’m reading in Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization. I think I received this review copy because the publishing houses have somehow caught on to the fact that I’m an absolute sucker for any book written about brains, time, ideas and business.  They must also know that I’m looking for any excuse to slow down.  If this sounds like you, then you, too, might find Consider an interesting book.

Daniel Patrick Forrester (@DPForrester) has pulled together a really intriguing read that is bound to make you feel better about taking the time to stand there and do nothing.  Overall, this is a book about NOT rushing in, NOT multi-tasking and giving yourself the permission to stop the merry-go-round and get off for a while.  In fact, the more critical the situation, the more imperative it is to take the time to think about what’s actually going on, get clear on context, and develop a sense of understanding so that you can respond in the best possible manner.

Consider Shows That Acting Too Quickly Can Mean Disaster

In an introductory video on the Consider website Forrester explains how our hurried, always-on, always-in-action lifestyle doesn’t leave us enough time to actually think through all the possibilities. In fact, only 10 percent of our day is actually spent thinking!  And when you consider that every time we are interrupted, it takes 11 minutes to get back to what we were doing, you can see how much productivity and time is wasted.

For some reason we seem to think that when situations get risky or tough, the best thing we can do is swing into action.  In fact, the opposite is true.  The higher the stakes in a situation, the more important it is to step back from the data and look for meaning.

Inside the Book

Daniel Forrester interviewed people who make a point of giving themselves uninterrupted thinking time before taking significant action.  One of the more surprising interview subjects was Tio Hardiman.  Tio’s story starts with gang violence in the South Side of Chicago and ends with the creation of a “new mental model for looking at violence.”  Instead of reacting violently in violent situations, Hardiman got the idea of adding credible people to potentially violent situations so that they would interrupt the violence before it reached a tipping point.

I also love the example from the seemingly opposite side of the tracks – Wall Street.  As it turns out, although Wall Street isn’t as physically violent, its stressful situations mimic the perceived risk level of violent streets.  In either case, failure to take the time to think about the downside of your actions within the system can lead to destruction.

Forrester’s interviews show how much better your solutions and outcomes can be if you just take the time to process and problem-solve as well as get other people involved.

This is a super-current book because it actually references the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill and how Thad Allen took the time to actually think through a problem instead of jumping to the first solution that came into his head.  Forrester also interviewed General Petraeus and shows how he planned the Iraq surge strategy by gathering expert insights from a variety of experts that included Vietnam veterans and sociologists.

Consider Is a Must-Read for All Leaders

This is a relevant book for leaders in every facet of our lives: CEOs, politicians, parents and entrepreneurs.   As a leader you need to hold yourself back from having to get results this minute.  Remember the phrase “Fools rush in,” and give the people on your team the freedom to stop and get perspective before taking action.

Of course, you may not want to luxuriate with every circumstance; after all, the deadlines and demands on your time won’t go away.  And this is exactly where Consider will come in handy--to help you prioritize and choose exactly where and when you will make and take the time to think and…consider.

To keep up with Daniel Forrester and read his latest articles, check out his blog, DanielForrester.
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