If thinking about new concepts and ideas brings us knowledge, and knowledge brings us power and money, why don’t we spend more time thinking? We can hire all the smart people we want, but if we can’t get them to unleash their intelligence in the right way, for the right purpose, their abilities are wasted. Sometimes, in putting a team together, we unintentionally hamstring some of our best thinking … including our own.
Vistage member Ann Herrmann-Nehdi is an expert in thinking styles, and how organizations can optimize them. Her firm helps businesses build on their brainpower.
We asked her to tell us how Vistage members can maximize their own and their team’s thinking. Here are Herrmann-Nehdi’s recommendations:
1) Build an awareness.
Understand the brainpower available to you. Ask yourself, “How much brainpower do I really use—both of my own, and of my people?”
2) Apply your new awareness about thinking to a critical business challenge.
Ask yourself, “How can I apply this new understanding of thinking to an issue we are facing right now?”
“As CEOs, many of us know, but we forget that our primary job is to think,” says Herrmann-Nehdi. We need to optimize what we’re doing with our own thinking time. We need to figure out how to listen for, and leverage, the differences in thinking on our management or executive teams. Who brings fresh thinking to the mix? Is some thinking uncomfortable? It might mean hiring someone who makes you very uncomfortable.” And, of course, listening to their ideas.
3) Get out of your own “thinking confines.”
“It’s very easy to get contaminated by your own industry mindset [or] by your own internal culture mindset,” explains Herrmann-Nehdi. “People who think more strategically read books and magazines to learn about industries that have nothing to do with theirs today, but that might impact them someday.”
With the confluence of dissimilar businesses and trends, it’s possible that current ways of doing business will be altered dramatically by a new technology or trend of the future. Escaping “thinking confines” can improve your strategic and innovative thinking for these possibilities.
Attending Vistage group meetings is one excellent way of discovering new ways of thinking about your business.
“As the chief strategic thinker in your business, you need to look outside your current world view, or you could be caught off-guard,” she says.
4) Cover all your “thinking” bases.
Being a CEO requires a “whole-brain” approach. Thinking must be active in all four quadrants of the brain. A Herrmann International study found that CEOs have multi-dominance. It’s just as important that all thinking styles are represented on their teams.
Take a look at your executive team and their teams to determine whether everyone is thinking alike. What kinds of thinkers aren’t represented in your inner circle and the wider circle of your organization?
“Surround yourself with thinking that covers all the bases” she says. This includes:
- Strong, analytical, bottom-line thinking. A strong thinker will provide you with good data and numbers--information that is absolutely clean and reliable.
- Execution expertise. This is someone who really understands how processes work and how to get things done with “t’s” crossed and “i’s” dotted.
- Strong people skills. This person should have a grasp of the internal and external constituencies in your business. This isn’t limited to the HR function, but someone who understands what’s going on inside a customer’s mind, or employees’ perspectives.
Global thinking. This is someone who will challenge your own thinking with a big picture perspective. It could be someone in R&D, in product development or someone who contributes a valued strategic perspective. “If yours is a small business, you can outsource this,” says Herrmann-Nehdi.
“You should have those four voices at the table and let everyone know up front the thinking the team needs from them. Make sure no one is wearing blinders. I’ve seen great teams assembled, then watched as contributors are ignored by one or more folks on the team, or most importantly, ignored by the CEO,” Herrmann-Nehdi says.
5) “Thinking” is a form of “doing.”
“Our culture is focused on ‘do, do, do.’ In fact, we have been so focused on doing and being specialized, that ‘thinking’ has been devalued,” explains Herrmann-Nehdi. “This notion of a CEO saying, ‘My primary job is to think,’ or ‘Your primary job is to think’ induces guilt, or makes us anxious that it might look like someone isn’t doing anything at all.”
“But thinking really should be a primary focus of every CEO. For some reason, we just don’t own it.”
Ann Herrmann-Nehdi is a Vistage member and CEO of Herrmann International, a firm that helps companies maximize their “brain trust” of employees.
Reprinted with permission by Vistage International. Copyright 2006, Vistage International, Inc. www.Vistage.com