Why are organizations and teams afraid of thinking? The challenge is that you don’t know how long it will take, and you can’t predict where you’ll come out. And that’s scary when you have deadlines to meet. But sometimes the fastest route to an outcome is to prioritize mental activity over physical activity.
Taking action–installing that equipment, meeting with that customer, shipping that product–we know how long that takes, and there’s a visible, tangible change in the universe that you can point to as proof of your efforts to solve the problem. But it’s not always progress. We have to learn to see it as the engine for progress that it truly is–for your team members and the organization.
Thinking helps your people make progress
Employees need time to think and digest their experiences to grow. And by grow, I mean identify and develop new skills, update and refine the tools they use to do their job, and internalize revelations about themselves and how they relate to others.
They must process these personal insights and make decisions about how to improve. Otherwise, people move from activity to activity reapplying the same tools and approaches… 5, 10, 20 years go by and suddenly these ways of working don’t fit the world they’re in. Experience is invaluable and irreplaceable–but only when that time has been used for growth and development.
And you have to make time for that. Sacrificing time to think for the sake of an “action bias” or “24/7 service” will catch up to you in the long run. What’s more–you’ll look back and see how it hurt you in the moment.
It also helps your business makes progress
In the industrial economy, physical activity equaled production–and that is still true today for many types of workers. But for knowledge workers–people who are paid to generate insights and make decisions–it just doesn’t work that way. For them, it’s these insights that equal production.
An insight can be generated without calling a meeting or writing an email; a decision can be made without lifting a finger.
But there are no insights or decisions without thought.
Thought is the engine that drives knowledge-based work. But our antiquated definitions of activity and production have marginalized the single most important ingredient to success in this era of business.
You can work 100 hours a week, pull all-nighters and send emails from your kids’ soccer game. You can even do good, well-intentioned work in the middle of the business day–but if that work isn’t based on thoughtful insights and supported by crisp, firm decision-making–you’re not making progress.
Clear thinking leads to better insights and decisions that stick. Activity without these two ingredients cannot create progress. And–like every other activity–thinking requires time, training, and repetition to improve.
Now more than ever, thinking is an action verb.