One of the key competencies required of business leaders is critical thinking. Everybody has it to some degree. Utilizing it to the right degree is very important in business success.
Many entrepreneurs are solutions oriented. They see a problem. They attack it. They solve it. They move on. Sounds good, right? Efficient? Not exactly. That behavior is only good if the quick solution is based on experience, analysis, strong intuition or near certainty.
Coming up with "A" solution is not the same as coming up with the best solution. Critical thinking is using the filters listed above to consider a number of solutions and then making a decision in a timely manner. Before any decision is made, the "decider" (thank you George Bush for that word) needs to think about the possible consequences, both plus and minus, of that course of action.
Is the reward worth the risk?
Suppose that you are pitching a piece of business to an important potential customer at a critical time for your business. You and two of your high level colleagues are meeting with a key decision maker. He says "Honestly, your proposal is very similar to that of two other companies, maybe a tad better. I could choose any one of the three of you and not be faulted. If you were to give me some 'personal incentive' to choose you, the business is yours. Take a moment to consider that." With that, he leaves the room.
Your two colleagues immediately jump to the question of what and how much the payoff should be. They already see the solution. Give this guy some sort of kickback.
You however, as the critical thinker in the bunch stop and take a deep breath. You know that the reward of the kickback is the contract and that has a finite dollar value
The consequences however could be far more extensive. You would show your colleagues where your values lie, thus encouraging them to get involved in similar activity, which goes well beyond paying kickbacks. The ripples would extend into every area of honesty and integrity. You could be setting the tone for a form of corporate lawlessness.
Secondly, you are creating a precedent for doing business with this client.
Thirdly, what if it comes out? How would you look? What would that do to your business? To your personal reputation? To your family?
Taking just a few minutes to consider alternative scenarios, it shouldn't be hard determining the right thing to do.
Of course, critical thinking can be taken too far. If you keep waiting for "all of the facts" before making a decision, you may never make a decision. You will have analysis paralysis
On a scale of 1 to 10 as a critical thinker, you don't want to be a 1or a 2 or a 9 or a 10. Somewhere in that 6-8 range is ideal. You consider alternatives then have the ability to decide in a timely manner.
Quality of thought, consideration of rewards and consequences. Sometimes, if we see the same situation over and over, we can make more snap decisions. But when we do so, we run the risk of overlooking a slight difference in the fact pattern that might yield a different result.
There is no doubt that speed is important in today's world. But don't forget, so is accuracy.