In my previous post, I looked at executives who have very organized thoughts: seeing ideas from a three-bullet point perspective, i.e., "Thinking in PowerPoint." There are definite scenarios where this type of highly structured thinking works well (just think how it worked for the logical Mr. Spock saving the day for Kirk et al.).
But there are many other paradigms for effective executive thinking. I know many business leaders whose minds would never see the world in terms of an ordered list. Their brains are just whirring with ideas but not necessarily in a logical structure. Sort of anti-PPT thinking.
Random thoughts and ideas strewn all around their cerebellum. Think of dozens of different colored marbles, each representing a CXO thought: the current sales model...competitive tactics...economic downturn...staff reviews...product innovation...navigating for the upturn...customer loyalty. To an outsider, this might seem like a cluttered mind. Not so.
Connect the Dots Thinking
But if you look closer at what some execs do with these ideas, you WILL see an order. They connect disparate thoughts to form logical connections.
- IF the economy continues spiraling down, THEN what will that do to our sales strategy?
- IF we modify our sales strategy, THEN how will that impact what our competitors do; will they ramp-up?
- IF we increase customer satisfaction,THEN how will that impact customer loyalty?
- IF we release product X early, THEN how will that impact innovation?
When business leaders see the world as a giant chess board, with interconnected moves and relationships, they're using connect the dots thinking. Remember Philosophy 101 in college? If all men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, then Socrates is mortal. That's CXO "connect the dots" thinking. From what I've seen of the executive suite, this is one of the most critical mindsets any executive can develop.
A LEARNED SKILL
And that's the good news. This is not necessarily innate; it is a learned skill. If we start looking for connections, and start thinking in terms of "what if?" then we can develop IF...THEN thinking. For budding CEO's, it can be as simple as looking for clear connections between easily related ideas: a direct line. "IF we increase sales force by 10% THEN what...? IF we don't meet Q4 quota, THEN...."
Once you start training yourself to see a single connection, you can progress and start adding and looking for connections among two, three, four ideas. With determination and practice, you'll have "connect the dots" thinking as a default mindset. Then you're on your way to being the Bobby Fischer of the executive suite!