concepts are from "Business
by Dave Markum, Steve Smith and Mahan
business success there are 4 failures. Thinking
is the key.
These skills provide:
use of time and resources
Better products and services
Solutions to critical problems
8 business thinking skillsCheck your ego
the need for approval wastes time and resources.
unknown and provide fresh thinking.
Move off the solution
measured in results. Some solutions are distractions.
act without evidence. Prove
opportunity really exists.
the evidence into dollar signs.
Explore the ripple effect
or what will
be affected by your solution?
Slow down for yellow
might prevent your success?
Find the cause
of the problem instead of the effects
and people allocated to your project.
No more maybes
Business is thinking.
get paid to think. New ideas aren't the problem. Getting rid of old ideas can be.
of business decisions
fail. But 91% of business people are confident about their decisions.
businesses fail in 6 years and 82%
fail in ten
Could does not mean you should.
spend money that doesn't make money.
to think like a CEO.
many bosses pay people to agree with them.
EQ is your ability to relate
to people and trust your instincts. It's also maturity and the ability to clarify and ask questions.
It's also a justification of luck.
IQ = Intellectual
It's using hard data to make
good decisions and come up with new ideas. But if you only chase facts
you might reject good ideas too fast.
majority of business people are incapable of original thought because
they are unable to escape the tyranny of reason"
EQ and IQ to get XQ
is asking hard questions
in a soft way. You
need information and details and you need to build rapport.
Ego alienates people and ruins companies. It's insecurity and arrogance disguised as confidence.
33% of decisions are ego based. 66% of executives never explore options.
Resistance to change
with ego problems don't know they have a problem
show off your brilliance. You're
defensive and you seek approval. People
like good ideas from humble people.
a leader intimidates, the leader will fail.
try to prove you're right. Discover if you're right.
decisions are made when:
Anxiety, greed, impatience, intolerance,
apathy or fear hijack your brain. In the best case scenario you'll look for a safe, easy
way out. In the worst case scenario you'll bankrupt the business. You'll
focus on trying to prove yourself right.
Create a workplace where ideas are explored.
cure for ego is humility, strength and confidence. It's focuses on we
instead of me. Nobody
in the world knows everything, so don't pretend like you do.
Don't be defensive or quick to argue. Don't
use absolute terms (undoubtedly, certainly). Say I conceive, or I imagine.
Don't prove people wrong even if they are.
Show them that they're "right", but in
the present circumstance the idea
might not work as well.
If you're defensive when people give advice, they'll
resent giving it.
Out of a survey of 150,000 managers, the concepts "receives
feedback without being defensive" and "seeks
feedback on ways they
could improve" were last
on the list
Handling other people's ego
it or pump them up. Controlling your own ego (not having any) is the best solution.
Language can neutralize ego
and encourage the examination of
appreciate your asking, now when you say...
for bringing that up, could I ask you...
hadn't even thought of that, If I could, let me ask you....
point, do you mind me asking...
wondered about that myself...
may be the only options, that may make sense...
may well be an important issue...
is really interesting...
are the reasons for...
we think about...
Ego driven phrases:
much, too little, too slow, too expensive, better than, worse than.
all, every, never, no one, everyone. Instead,
try to ask "compared to what?"
beliefs can ruin performance
never believe me...
isn't rewarded here...
market has no faith in us...
think in black and white terms.
Explore other options.
Pain VS gain VS reality:
People in pain mode focus on negatives. "That won't work, I don't like
it, here's why its bad." The language of pain stops
These people focus on possibilities and
positives. This can distort your ability to asses reality and it might distract you from real problems.
Is the glass half full or half empty?
Allow people to vent their ideas
in their preferred mode. Then invite them to explore the
other side. Listen to
peoples language. You'll hear ego-cues everywhere. Deal with ego tactfully and
No ego = better solutions.
Some people invest lots
of time and money convincing themselves they're open to advice. Then they ignore good
advice when they hear it.
I take constructive
feedback without being defensive.
listen without interrupting when someone presents an irrelevant or inferior idea.
confident around powerful people without any nervousness.
openly share my opinions without fear of dismissal or need for acceptance.
spend equal amounts of time listening and talking.
people I work with are colleagues (your bosses and employees).
A challenge to my ideas is not a personal attack.
accept when people disagree with me.
accept feedback even when it's negative and about me!
= intense, boundless inquiry
Curiosity is the soul of business. It helps you find better solutions (and more of them). It
helps you look past experience.
helps you find solutions that fit your companies
questions that get to the essence.
into the possibilities, outcomes and options. Question, interview,
get facts, talk to experts and research. Don't harass people though, use tact.
Your knowledge blocks possibilities.
Your knowledge is a filter. It's filtering out potential
ideas. Stay open.
a funny paradox. Though we're pretty confident in our ability to
observe people and draw insights out of them, we pride ourselves on
starting our projects humbly- and a little dumb. We don't want to
peek at the answers before we know the questions." -Tom
ideas should add to your experience, not threaten it.
New ideas are often judged based on
what's reasonable. Maybe the old ideas are
choose beliefs like clothing; they want them to fit and
people want certainty. They don't want change and will accept any theory as
your experience, but allow experience to grow.
"In times of change, learners inherit the earth"
and position can hurt creativity.
the boss is in the room,
does it affect
people's willingness to share ideas?
If you're the boss:
Don't reward people for blind obedience ever
! If someone
succeeds without you, make them a hero. When
hierarchy is tyrannical, the curious innovators leave
your role and focus on business
person "who focuses on contribution and takes responsibility for
results, no matter how junior, is in the most literal sense of the
phrase, Top Management" -Peter Drucker
Get curiosity back
Break routines and try something new
Keep asking questions. Get everyones opinion. Ask, wonder, speculate,
hypothesize, think, think, think and wake up!
curiosity a living force in your mind.
Create a chief curiosity officer or CCO
Their job is to take the opposite point
of view and break people out of ruts. A rut is a grave with both
ends kicked out. It's not a groove you "get into". The
CCO's job is to apply the 8 business thinking principles to any problem.
with a ? not a !
loves intellectual diversity.
people with different backgrounds and viewpoints.
I start projects feeling humble and dumb. I ignore what I think I know.
I ask people for different perspectives and viewpoints.
I'm not threatened by new
OK to disagree and I like intellectual diversity.
are often worth exploring.
stay curious without getting distracted or off task.
reward people for being curious.
I ask questions I enjoy the discovery process.
pre-meditated, pre-mature solutions have no value.
solution is worthless until it creates value for the company.
have to understand the underlying issues.
solution might sound
perfect: move off it.
"There is perhaps no psychological skill more
fundamental than resisting impulse" -Daniel Goleman
Hope is not a method or a strategy.
in, get out and make money often becomes get in, stay in and
spend money. Know what your getting in advance.
are the enemy of shoulds
you do? Coulds are ok when thinking. They're not ok
when they drain resources. Coulds kill businesses.
coulds don't get ROI* kill them off.
*Return on Investment.
Shut down the "coulds" using business think.
Solutions should match the problem or opportunity.
Otherwise solutions are simply
events pretend to be solutions:
Resources are lost
Everything gets priority,
and shoulds don't get enough priority.
Chronic problems are ignored.
Costs are driven up.
Compounded problems arise.
Activity is mistaken for
The crucial issues remain.
use words they understand. Those words might mean different things to you.
You assume you understand and they assume you understand.
Assume = Dumb Ass-U-Me
more an organization knows about a term or concept relevant to it's
business, the less likely it is to agree on a common term or meaning
it." - Thomas Davenport
you're unsure about the meaning, ask for clarification.
they have to think about the answer, they're also unsure. Clarify and understand each other.
often talk using terms that encode many beliefs and experiences.
The listener thinks they understand the meaning and they move past it
and keep talking. The concept becomes like an iceberg, 10% of the meaning is understood and 90% of the meaning is hidden.
greatest enemy of communication is the illusion of it" -Pierre Martineau
Share a definition and get the results you want.
people to define complex words. Slow
down the communication. Don't assume or guess. Many times
you'll be surprised by what they say. This also helps them think
about what they're really trying to say.
the phrase: "We need a solution to the problem"
problem is real.
There's only one problem.
It's possible to solve the
The problem has only one
Having the problem is bad and
a solution would be good.
People care about finding a
We can measure the extent of
Different people perceive
the problem the same way.
It's possible to determine
if the solution is valid.
The solution would solve the entire
The cost of the solution is less
than the cost of the problem.
The solution wouldn't cause more
problems or make a problem worse.
The solution will be valid over time.
questions you don't ask will steer you into an iceberg.
Understand what people want
Facts that make sense to you might not make sense to them. Learn
for an ideal solution. Don't make
a presentation to people who's criteria, goals, knowledge and definitions are unknown. This
leads to mutual mystification. You want mutual understanding. Guessing isn't allowed.
your intent matches your colleagues intent (and your ego is in check) ask the
you have a solution and everyone is clear:
Move off the solution
This avoids premature solutions. Keep the solution handy because it might be the best, but let it go. You'll
find better solutions and resist the coulds
Whatever action you're taking: strategies, reports, meetings, goals,
research or free web content, see it as a solution, and move off
Examine the underlying issues and find the shoulds
List the issues the solution is trying to fix. Make it complete
and relevant. Prioritize the list (and watch out for ego). Keep
adding to the list. Often the last ideas added are the best and most relevant. Be
patient, take your time and sort it out.
Don't waste resources treating the underlying problem. Fix it.
similar issues. Divide the number of issues by 3. This is how many votes
each person gets to divide between the issues.
Voting allows you to agree as a group, but it doesn't mean your
minds lead to immovable decisions.
I reject premature solutions.
focus on business enhancing activities.
I focus on key initiatives.
decisions after I understand what's relevant.
uncover relevant issues for myself and my colleagues.
rank each issue as relevant or mildly relevant.
clarify peoples use of words and phrases.
Speed is not the answer
It's an advantage 10%
of the time. It usually results in wasted
resources, missed opportunities and flawed strategies.
Activity can masquerade as
problem solving and creating.
Sometimes you need a fast decision
Decide if it's a race before you
start running. You need speed, but you also need the
down and get evidence
Don't act before you have evidence. Prove that a problem
or opportunity actually exists.
want more, faster.
Then they panic
and do more faster!
The old saying isn't measure once and cut 27 times, its measure
twice and cut once. However, measure 27 times and never cut is
just as stupid. Or to put it another way:
doesn't take anything away from decisiveness, from being a person of
action. in fact it generates the inner toughness that you need to be an
effective person of action to be a leader." -Peter
People make better decisions
Your blood flows through your brain better. You'll avoid decisions based on fear.
the fast that eat the slow, or even the big that eat the small,
it's the smart that eat the stupid" -Business Think
"Getting focused on outcomes is one thing,
figuring out which outcomes
are right is something else entirely"
-Marcus Buckingham and Curt
much money am I losing each day if I don't take action now?
the need for speed justified?
speed a way to reduce my anxiety about the problem? Or is it solving the problem?
it urgent? Important? Or both?
focus on the main priorities.
evaluate speed requirements for each project.
I'm not pressured to make fast decisions.
I can't think of a better solution, I avoid the urge to plow
I feel uncertain, I slow down and think it through.
busy isn't a solution to the problem.
are objective and not random.
Evidence can be misleading and subtle.
Dig deeper and see what you missed. People are good at forming ideas. They're deficient at evaluating
and testing ideas.
you fail to see that your solution will be on trial, you
don't get a conviction, you get a mistrial" -Business
2 levels of evidence:
circumstantial, anecdotal, subjective data
validated, objective, quantified data
It's the easiest to find. It
comes from experience. It's
found in peoples stories, opinions and perspectives. It
gives you leads to chase down. It helps people feel understood and valued.
Soft evidence is the first filter
if the solution doesn't pass through this filter, it fails.
Soft evidence generates wisdom
Hard evidence can be limited in
scope. It can fail to
include important factors. Soft evidence leads to hard evidence. That leads to impact.
It can be measured or verified. It can be goals or
target numbers. It's profit and loss statements or any
other financial indicators.
shows the solutions impact on the business
turns general non-financial ideas into financial impact. If
the financial impact is small, stop the solution right now.
might cost more than the problem
comes from inside or outside the company
employees. Your customers. Your
experience with similar problems. Other
companies solutions to a similar problem, etc.
evidence might be biased and limited. Outside
evidence might not apply to your company
Make sure the evidence is real
You're not trying to
validate your ego.
and outside evidence.
How will the market react? How will your company react?
I prove a problem exists.
make a plan to achieve a desired result.
ask people for advice and I value their opinion.
get soft and hard evidence before proposing a solution.
make sure outside evidence is relevant to my company.
I share inside evidence with
my outside sources and I get their advice. Is it relevant?
Finding soft evidence
how and what questions
Get everyones opinion
How will we know?
How is this happening?
How did we become convinced?
What will we observe?
What convinced us?
What specifically is happening?
Ask the obvious
The answers are never obvious.
get paid to ask questions, even simple ones
down every answer. The evidence can be hard, soft, factual, opinion or philosophy. Ask
everyone for their advice, no matter how junior they are. Keep
in mind that your clients tell you what you want to hear. Your colleagues tell you what they think
you want to hear. It's
human nature. Encourage open discussion.
"Please give me an example" are the five most important words in the business
persons arsenal" -Tom Peters
much or too little test
do we have to much of, or too little of?
Which path leads
to an economic return?
with the results in mind. Dig
through the soft evidence and find the financial impact.
what you want
Our objectives are....
trying to accomplish... "
Give people time to think.
Let them gather hard and soft evidence. Don't agitate
them with interrogation. You want their opinion because they're smart, let them know it.
If people describe things in pain
past it and ask:
then what happens?
What does that affect?
Worst-case scenario, what will happen?
If it's measurable, it's hard evidence
I look for evidence I can measure.
create a solution using hard and soft evidence.
recognize pain language when people share evidence.
help people understand their problems better.
create a storyline that makes a compelling business case.
doesn't talk, it screams.
money unless it brings more in. A solution
can cost more than the problem.
It's a rough financial analysis. Does it involve thousands of dollars?
Millions? Tens of millions?
words like rough
estimate, more or less, best guess.
shows the impact of solving the problem
helps you find the right solution. It
helps you compare solutions. It
makes the solution real and moves people towards consensus.
do you measure it?
is it now?
would you like it to be?
the value of the difference?
the value of the difference over time?
Solve the problem with them
, not for them. Make
them think they solved it.
do you project revenues over 5, 10 or 15 years? You
might look at market expansion, historic revenue, growth patterns,
marketing spending levels and anticipated increase in customer
you make an educated guess
If you don't like the numbers, modify your assumption and make a
new guess! These
guesses are not
actual reality but they give you a basic idea.
the financial impact of s
olution VS. no-solution.
ask people to help estimate the financial impact.
I make a decision I present a strong business case.
ask the five golden questions.
I make a decision the ROI* is clear to me. *Return on investment
use financial data to persuade people and move them towards consensus.
problem affects the entire company
of the solution will increase based on who's affected. The
priority of the solution might decrease when compared to other
priorities. The solution might be important to your department and no one elses.
your solution match your long term goals?
7% of decisions are made after considering long-term priorities.
A solution might solve your
problem and nobody else's.
This is function think. The solution
serves a few local people. The new strategy
doesn't match the companies initiative. You mistake
your personal priorities with company priorities. You miss the
full scope of the impact. You solve
something that doesn't need solved.
to everyone affected by the problem
your solution compatible with the company strategy?
Rate the problem on a scale of 1 to 10, and have others do the same. It
might be a 10 for you, but a 5 for the company.
the company should work on projects with a 9 or 10 priority.
know the role my group plays in creating company strategies.
I determine which departments will be affected.
compare the solution with the companies other priorities.
I focus my awareness on our key business strategies.
fix any problems that the solution might cause.
people slow down when they see a yellow light.
a red light's unavoidable, stop as soon as possible.
Red lights aren't failures
Making a red light more
expensive is a failure.
Slow down for yellow lights.
Tactfully explain your concerns. Try to turn
a yellow light into a red
How can you make it work?
can go wrong?
hasn't the company done this before? Why
hasn't anyone else done it? What's
different this time? Most people avoid these questions. Ask them in a soft way.
These responses work well:
I have a concern...
I think we may have a problem...
, what should
we do to solve the problem? You want them to solve it so
they're convinced. If their solution is another yellow
light, have them try again.
the solution doesn't make sense I tactfully explain why.
If the solution is a high priority I ask "why haven't we done it already?"
anticipate problems that could block us from our goals.
willing to slow down and ask questions.
I clarify concepts that seem confusing.
If you don't ask why:
It's like taking
painkillers to cure a disease. The
drug hides the pain and the disease gets worse.
the cause instead of the effects.
For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil,
there is one hacking at the root" -Henry David Thoreau
The reason why is often complex.
Look for the "why" after you find evidence of financial impact.
you don't ask why:
You might not
solve the problem. You might pick the
wrong solution. You might cause
other problems and waste time, human resources and money.
why isn't easy
might have pre-determined ideas. Ask other people to share their ideas and observations. You
might need data from customer input, research or surveys. Sometimes
flawed thinking is exposed.
Chasing why can make
They might feel guilty. Create an open environment and don't blame your co-workers. You
want to save the company money. You want to know why something is happening.
Jefferson Memorial was deteriorating. Workers
were cleaning the stones too much. Pigeons were pooping on them. Pigeons
were eating the spiders. Spiders
were eating the moths. Moths
were attracted to the monuments lights. They turned on the lights 2 hours later and the problem was solved.
what and how, to why.
you moved off the solution
you made a list of issues. Take
the highest priority on the list and ask "why is this happening?" Make a list of reasons. Take the most important cause
from that new list. Make another list of why's
for that issue.
going. It often takes 3 to 5 lists of why's
to determine the cause of the problem.
I create an environment where nobodies guilty.
build a case based on evidence and financial impact.
I get expert opinions from people inside and outside the company.
I understand the difference between the symptoms of the problem and the cause of the problem.
explore new ways of looking at things.
I don't look for the answer before understanding the question.
you present your case:
about the timing for implementing the solution. Get the right people. Setup the funding.
do you want to start the project? When do you want to see results? If
you want it done fast you need more people involved.
Don't forget to ask these questions. Lack of clarity causes confusion, frustrates people
and slows down the process.
many people are needed? How
long will they be involved? Do you want internal or external people working on this project?
An unbalanced ratio can cause problems. External people might not
understand the companies needs and internal people can be biased. Results
don't magically happen. You
need a talented diverse team.
talk can make people uncomfortable. They feel
the pressure of the investment and feel accountable. People vote with their wallets.
Differentiate between value
Find out what they're willing to spend to get results. Can
they afford this? Will
they afford this? Is it worth solving the problem?
Trying to get the best deal.
Nickel and dimers:
They don't like to invest.
They're willing to solve the problem at any cost.
If people nickel and dime projects:
You don't get the money, time or people you need to be
successful. If the results fail to appear quickly they shut
it down and blame you.
If it's worth
doing do it right, or don't do it.
If you sugar daddy projects:
People start to panic because of the large amount of money being spent. The longer the project goes on, the
more stress they feel.
This stress affects their
decision making process. They decide the financial burn rate is too
high for the results and they shut it down before
the project's done.
Either way the business loses
Discuss the financial investment the solution requires. Align
your business case with the proposed investment.
A budget's been
established and it's too small. Calmly
ask them how they
got their numbers. You'll be amazed by their shallow thinking.
Point out the depth
of your business case.
counter arguments will focus on logistics and value
They agree that the solution is worth the investment but
they have logical
constraints. Can the solution be implemented smoothly?
Re-examine the solution and look for yellow lights. Work
on it together. Make the solution work with the
reason for saying no sounds logistical but it's actually a problem with perceived value. Maybe other priorities are
more important. They'd be irresponsible not to say so. Ask
if other priorities and solutions have a business case that can be compared to yours.
Evaluate the coulds and focus on the shoulds
Examine everything and be honest
You'll find a solution
that meets the companies needs.
I propose reasonable budgets for a possible solution. We discuss the budget details.
tactfully point out budget details that don't appear realistic.
I get people to agree (or disagree) on the value
for the solution.
It's ruled by ego,
hidden agendas, delays, rumors,
urgency, departmental blindness, positional power, fear, poor preparation, multiple decision-makers,
office politics, changing priorities and getting people to agree.
process is inconsistent
process is invented for every decision. The process often gets
in the way.
decision makers hold up hoops for you to jump through. Prove
this, do that, get stats.
Tell us why... ? Uhh, we
told you why....
Your job is making good decisions for the company
It's the only reason to fix a problem or embrace an opportunity. It's not
about making yourself look good.
It's not about derailing someone else's ideas to give yours a chance. That motivation is wrong
Committee's like deciding whether to act on other people's
ideas. If the idea fails, everyone can blame someone
it succeeds, everyone can claim victory.
businesses can't make decisions
nobody will decide or everyone has to decide. The
company needs the solution. The
company needs the decision.
waste people's time.
sure everyone's willing to decide.
Decide yes or no
is an okay answer. If you have the evidence, make the decision.
When no is okay:
It removes pressure. It demonstrates objectivity. People
will be more straightforward. You'll get better information.
Don't get addicted to "YES" or winning
to the maybe syndrome:
takes too long to make a decision. The situation changes and you have to
start the process over.
waste resources examining other possibilities. You
can't allocate enough resources to fix the problem.
get frustrated and they give up on thinking. Productivity
comes to a halt. Good
ideas wait forever. People
The business loses its competitive advantage. The
If the employees know that someone will make a decision, they'll approach the process enthusiastically.
They'll only have one chance to present their case and they'll get it
right. The decision-makers will specify what's needed to make a
The company will benefit.
List all the steps needed.
What will be decided at each step?
What's the time line for each step?
Who's involved in each step? What's their decision-making
role? What info does each person need? What decision making
criteria will each person apply?
The holy decsion grid
are needed to make a
for the company? Keep
everyone focused. Make a list of the go
overlook anything. Update the
list as you work.
decision gets made in each step? Who
makes the decision in each step?
should have a tentative date. These checkpoints will keep things moving. If
you miss a date, bring it to someone's attention.
people accountable for a decision. It's
okay if the timing changes. Keep
the dialog open.
in each step? Identify
the people. Why's each person involved? Talk
to those people directly. Learn their criteria for making a decision.
Understand the issue from their perspective. Business
think with them. Anything
less then that is guessing.
Their criteria might be
unconscious or intuitive (not thought out). Help them think.
Never ask who's going to
make this decision?
You're too incapable, inexperienced,
young, old or dumb. I
want to talk to the real
decision-maker, someone important.
by saying "I am" whether
it's true or not. Be
tactful. The five steps will determine who makes each decision.
often make decisions for personal gain.
the ways people might win or lose. Convince them that the company's best interest is their best interest.
Or just threaten
to throw them out the window. It works.
If you're the
Clarify the steps needed to
make a good decision. Don't leave
anything out or hide anything. Make the process clear and stick
Everyone needs to
know what to do. Everyone needs to know the
authority they have.
Make a realistic time line for
When it's decision time:
Have a meeting and get all the decider's in the room. Make sure the presenters have
all the information they need. If they don't, delay the meeting.
Be clear on the criteria that
will be applied to the decision. Be clear that no is not
Success is measured in open
Success is measured in financial
gain for the company.
At the end of the meeting make
a decision. Be bold. Yes
or no is okay
means you didn't prepare properly. Stop wasting everyones time!
Have less people make the decision
Having too many people deciding slows down the process.
They can destroy solid business think with sloppy normal
think. Tactfully exclude them.
think about each step.
help others think about each step.
make a time line for each step.
prepare a business case for others to prove or disprove.
talk to each person involved with the decision.
ask people their opinions on other solutions
(Either inside or outside the company)
search for the right decision. I avoid projects that are clearly busy work, or pointless activity.
find enough information to make an educated yes or no decision.
clarify the desired objectives with everybody involved.
executives were interviewed. The most important skills are:
Business skills 68%
You don't lead a business into
the past. Now is where you are. Be here now.
Now is where the future is created. Change
Lead yourself now. Business think lets you fail
intellectually before you fail financially.
You need to make the right decision. Half of all decisions fail and half succeed.
which half is which.