Thinking Thinking
27 December

Thinking About Thinking

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To manage means to be in control. We need to be in control of these aspects in order for us to achieve our desired outcome. Most existing literature in management tend to dwell on how to manage these aspects on a daily basis. Articles and books on management today predominantly provide “to do” lists to guide behavior.

Do these articles and books really help? I don’t think so. In reality this approach fails miserably. What is proposed may work within a specific context but seldom works under all circumstances. Hence it is time we discard the notion that we need to know how to do things better. The “to do” list approach in developing managerial skills has to be replaced with a more pragmatic, contextualized understanding of how to improve the thinking process that governs the behavior that needs to be changed when managing situations and people.

We do not normally think about how we think, and how to think better. As such, we tend to think along the same path that makes us behave in predictable ways. This sort sort of behavior yields the same results. To achieve better results, we need to do things differently. Essentially this means being able to think differently. If the thinking process is not continually refined, we remain enslaved within our pre existing mental model of the world.

In the field of psychology, thinking about thinking is referred to as “metacognition” or what is normally understood as “cognition about cognition”. It is a higher order of thinking skills that enables one to rise above commonly held beliefs, and to ponder on why we think the way we do under commonly encountered situations at work. It helps us think of how to change what is changeable in a rapidly changing world.

By re-examining the way employees and management think at work and their deeply held beliefs that lead to such thinking, it may be possible to uncover the “why” behind the “how” things get done. By understanding and reinforcing the rationale for a proposed action, a nurturing and engaging environment may be established at work where people are willing and able to share what they truly believe in.

This over time provides an avenue for companies to come to recognize and, where possible, control the forces that shape the thinking process that goes through the minds of people. This can lead to changing limiting beliefs that limit potential of the workforce into empowering beliefs that reinforce positive behaviors desired.

Creating the right experiences at work that reinforces empowering beliefs that govern the thinking process is more important than providing a “to do” list with the hope it will be adhered to. This requires managers to develop higher order thinking skills to assess how and why people think the way they do.

Thinking is a purpose driven structured process aimed at achieving something. You think about how to influence your boss to accept your proposal. You think about how to resolve a problem. You think about how to achieve your targets. There is a purpose for the process of thinking and so thoughts are organized and deliberated upon meaningfully. This occurs almost automatically and unconsciously leading to the same behaviors in the past.

The trick is to stop and think again. What am I thinking now? Why am I thinking in this way? What am I assuming? Why am I assuming this? What if my assumption is wrong? Have I considered all aspects and all perspectives that relate to this issue? What has I left out that is important? How will this affect the decision I am going to take? Have I considered both the immediate as well as the long term outcome of this action? What if the immediate result is beneficial but the long term outcome is far more damaging? What do I have do to strike a balance?

By thinking about thinking, we refine our thinking process. We minimize the possibility of making wrong assumptions and learn to appreciate differing points of view and merge them to develop one that embraces different viewpoints rather than limit discussions to ones that we favor. We train ourselves to respond in ways that takes cognizance of both long terms implications as well as short term gains so that benefits outweigh costs, both in the long as well as in the short run.

By training our minds to think beyond what we normally think about, we are able to recognize inherent beliefs that reinforces the thinking process of people we interact with. This makes it easier to identify experiences that affects beliefs which in turn govern thinking and attitudes people cling on to. We can look for ways to generate experiences that negates beliefs people are predisposed of. We seek to gradually change the existing belief system so that a new way of thinking emerges that leads to new behaviors that are consistent with better results.

Hence, thinking about thinking helps us personally as it refines our thinking process as well as manage situations and people better as we work towards changing the beliefs people have. This involves inspiring people to do more than what they can do on their own.

Hence, learning to manage better requires more emphasis to be placed on developing higher order thinking skills that are continually refined than providing people with a list of things to do. The former inspires and reignites the desire to continually improve situations encountered. The latter merely aims for conformity to what is presumed to be the best way to manage these situations.

Read 162 times Last modified on Wednesday, 27 December 2017 14:24
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Dr Rumesh Kumar

Dr Rumesh Kumar is a certified project management professional, a certified professional trainer and performance improvement consultant specializing in the areas of leadership development, continual productivity improvement and enhancement of interpersonal skills.

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