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Get Better At Deep Thinking

deep thinking

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been having intense discussions with my teammates on how to think, understand and process situations more deeply.

A challenge many of us encounter in our lives often is not being able to understand the root of any issue in its entirety. As a consequence, we struggle to solve issues and move forward. We take things at face value without trying to get deeper into the matter. As a consequence, execution becomes inefficient, and individuals become unproductive. Worse, we don’t even recognize that our ineffective handling of the situation is the cause of all the inefficiency.

To make this point clearer, let me illustrate with an example.

Imagine you are in a meeting or a conversation with someone, trying to elicit a favorable response to some request or requirement, and the person raises an objection. Let’s say the person says, ” Broadly, I get what you are saying, but I think it’s a big decision, and I don’t know if I want to look at this right now. There is a lot on my plate presently.”

Because the need is yours and because the other person raised an objection or concern, you straightaway react by trying to justify your position.

” I know it’s a big decision, but this is definitely beneficial to the organization. Please let me know if I can help with any other information here; I’ll be glad to provide it.”

The person says he will consider your proposition and come back to you. Two weeks pass. Nothing moves, and you start building a story in your mind that the other person is being difficult. After all, you have done everything required, the other person had some concerns, and you have addressed them. You even requested him to come back to you if he had any queries or concerns.  

This is a typical situation where the better and perhaps the correct approach would have been to take a pause to process what the person has said, make an effort to understand the concern more deeply instead of assuming you know exactly what the other person is trying to say.

What would deep thinking in this situation look like?

It would be a series of questions that would crop up in your mind based on the comment the other person made. The questions could be-

  • He says he understands the proposal I am putting forth. Is he really getting it? What if he has not understood the full benefit of what I have explained? Can I validate his understanding?
  • I wonder why he would want to postpone a decision just because the decision is risky(Big as he says)?
  • Is there something I could have done differently to inspire confidence in him? Would sharing formal evidence of value help shift his mindset?
  • I wonder what all is on his plate presently? Can I help with anything? If I helped him, he might be more open to looking at my proposal. 

When you think deeply, your mind processes everything through self-directed questions. The questions then lead you to handle the situation more effectively.

A good analogy to describe the process of deep thinking would be what a doctor does. As a patient, you state your problem, but a good doctor digs deeper to validate many other aspects before concluding the course of action.

Deep thinking is necessary to clear the clutter and isolate what is important. It demands that you be brutally honest about what you know and don’t know. But, most importantly, it requires you to let go of bias, prejudice, and preconceived notions to see what’s missing, identify gaps, and plug them.

Having a rock-solid understanding of any situation is the foundation for efficient execution and success.

We come across some brilliant thinkers and delude ourselves into thinking they are naturally more intelligent. No, they are not smarter inherently. They just think better, consciously. And so can you.

How do you think? Do you have a decision-making process? Do you have mental models and heuristics that help you connect the dots and think deeper?

Deep thinking is a skill, and just as with any skill, you can get better at it. However, this can happen only if you acknowledge it as an issue that requires you to improve it.

So, how good are you at thinking?

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