Over the years I have observed a wide range of behaviour in executive teams, particularly relating to the speed and quality of their decision making. But first a short excursion into the human communication process.
The central nervous system is designed to follow thinking with action, transmitting messages to all parts of the body through an intricate network of nerve fibres. Think and act, in that sequence. We act upon the world around us by avoiding some things and being attracted to others. There is always an impact to your actions and an impact to your thoughts, even though the thought may not result in an action on the outside world. Thoughts have a dual impact, one on the outside world transmitted through the nervous system, the other a direct impact on other thoughts.
There is probably an ideal ratio of thoughts to a following outside action, some thoughts having only an impact on other thoughts, the rest being connected to an action. Some people may experience a large proportion of their thinking only impacting other thoughts, and in it’s extreme form results in over-thinking and procrastination. Those with the opposite ratio might be too quick to act, and in the extreme become very busy reacting to events as they unfold.
You will have experienced the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from having acted on your ideas with a positive and tangible result. You may also have experienced a degree of despair or exhaustion at not having acted on your ideas and instead got caught up in loops of thought with no exit to action.
The ability to balance this ratio, to not be slave to one nor the other is perhaps one of the central challenges we all face every day. Decision making and decision taking is such a key part of everything we do both at work and in our personal lives. Being guided by ideas to make decisions that impact the world is not always as easy as it seems. Now and again we make poorly thought through decisions that don’t have the impact we intended. Hopefully we learn from these experiences.
It’s the thought loops that create inertia ….. should I or shouldn’t I? Will it or won’t it? Do I or don’t I? Yes or no? Stop or go? Each time you arrive back at the same place and indecision prevails. It may be useful to map the loops and change the course of your thoughts so you can make better and more robust decisions in an appropriate period of time.
So what causes the loops? One answer can be found in a set of thinking and behaviour patterns called ‘meta programs’. Certain combinations cause a particular type of decision making.
You can discover your own patterns with this online profiling tool - just 31 questions resulting in a pdf file with your specific combinations. And it’s entirely free. When you get your results look at all your scores between 10 and 15. These scores will indicate your strongest patterns. Reflect on how these patterns may be helping or hindering your ability to make and take good timely decisions. Then consider how these patterns either increase or diminish your job satisfaction. Then reflect on the effect these patterns have on your relationships with others.
You are now beginning to explore the real dynamics behind your decision making from 3 perspectives: thoughts about your work, thoughts about others and the impact on your thinking generally. The next step is to take this into the team context.
I listened to a news broadcast this morning about the life of John Barry, the guy who wrote many famous film scores including James Bond, Born Free and Out of Africa. His lyricist said he would never give him a new score until it was finished. The lyricist was not allowed in the room during the composing stage.
Barry said a good lyricist needs to take the music away, get it into their head and live with it for a while before attempting to create the words.
This fits with our theory on creative brainblossoming for business - first plant the idea, then let it germinate for a while before having a few ‘input’ meetings to thrash out some of the detail. Then gather the team together for a ‘final answer’ session.
Creativity is not so forthcoming on demand.