August 1998 Web Brief
Learning to be Successful

Quote of the month: "We can do only what we think we can do. We can be only what we think we can be. We can have only what we think we can have. What we do, what we are, what we have, all depend upon what we think." Robert Collier

Closing the Thinking Gap
Source: Communication Briefings ideas that work

We were dismayed recently when we read these results from a Kepner-Tregoe Inc. survey of 641 managers and 773 hourly workers:

  • Almost two-thirds of both managers and workers said their organizations use 50% or less of the workforce’s brainpower.
  • More than 50% of workers and 40% of managers said employees get no training to improve thinking skills. Also, 25% of the managers do not receive such training.

Despite our dismay, we see this as a platinum opportunity for these managers and employees to develop their skills and increase their value to an organization. In fact, that’s exactly what many employers expect under the new workplace contract. So here are our suggestions on what you can do to correct or prevent this thinking gap:

  • Become known as the "remember when" person on your staff who campaigns against "we’ve always done it that way" thinking. To do so, collect and present evidence of how previous decisions that did not ask for, or ignored, staff thoughts wasted time and money. Note: This may make you unpopular at first. But if you stick to it, you could become known as the "saved us from doing something stupid again" person.
  • Allocate a chunk of training dollars to hire an expert to conduct a workshop or a series of workshops on critical thinking. But don’t settle for a theoretical approach. Have both managers and workers list real problems they face. Then, insist that the expert use these problems to train the staff to think critically.
  • Become a champion of a "one process fits all" approach to dealing with critical issues. Everyone, from top management to those on the front lines, should know and use the same process to solve problems and make decisions. Reason: You’ll save valuable time and and eliminate conflict if everyone is on the same wavelength.
  • Wear a thinking cap instead of a critic’s hat. But don’t expect that donning new headgear will be easy. It’s simpler, of course, to blame somebody rather than working with your co-workers to find a better way to proceed. Thinking is hard work, and it takes time-perhaps some of your own when you’re not at work.
  • Do what more and more of today’s employees do. Take responsibility for your own training if your organization cannot or will not offer it. Check out nearby colleges or universities for a critical thinking course. Or sign up for a one-day workshop. The knowledge will pay off in the long run.
  • Make sure you’re not working from a limited blueprint that tells you only what you, your group or your business unit is doing. Instead, redraw it to reflect a vision of what the entire organization is doing. Reason: "Seeing the bigger picture" can help you uncover something unexpected that could lead to a dynamic idea to improve things in your organization, and in you.

Source: Jack Gillespie and Joe McGavin, Communication Briefings, May 1998