Bill Welter is a consulting educator with over 45 years of experience spanning four separate careers: military, engineering, consulting and education. As president of Adaptive Strategies based in Chicago and Tucson, Arizona, he specializes in the application of critical and strategic thinking for business leaders and professionals through writing, speeches, workshops, team facilitation, and one-on-one coaching. Author of four books (the most recent being 30,000 words written in 30 days), Bill believes in the prepared mind for leaders, living by a reflective, mental process to address change flexibly and take action dynamically.
Leadership Favors the Prepared Mind: The great biosciences innovator Louis Pasteur once said “chance favors the prepared mind,” and so do people and organizations when it comes to change. Some are prepared for, while others succumb to change based on the presence and regular use of (lacking or being underutilized) eight skills: observe, imagine, reason, reflect, challenge, decide, learn and enable. While obvious or common sense, how often we overlook using them on a regular basis. Four questions are worth revisiting along the way: What did we want? What did we get? What is/are the difference(s)? What did we learn?
The “R” Words – Rethink, Reinvent, Reposition: Every product, business and career will rise, mature, and eventually decline in absence of rethinking, reinventing and repositioning. You are going to change or change is going to come to you, and you must get ready. The trick is not to let the strategic inertia of success take over, driving us to wait too long to take action. There are twelve strategies (such as a personality transplant or shifting your products to shift your brand, or taking a greater share of the wallet) that come from thinking about the customers you have and want, and the assets (hard and soft) that you will need to serve these customers.
Do You Want to Make Good Decisions?: In spite of all of the writing and research behind good and bad decisions, we have a long way to go in the “real world” of decision making. Classically good decisions are: a) Informed (about the real problem, risk, alternatives), b) Timely (a late decision is usually worthless), c) Tailored (there is no “one size fits all” process), and d) Fair (all stakeholders have been considered). Success depends upon answering key questions, such as: Do you own the decision or are you renting it? Are you thinking “big enough?” Are you willing to engage in “violent, respectful debate?” Do you really have values or do you only talk about them?
Think Like a Strategist: No matter what level you are in an organization, accepting change is an imperative in a world demanding faster and broader thinking. Success is for those who adopt the mindset of a strategist and take responsibility for their future. Work to balance your time commitment to take action in zones of reaction, adaptation and anticipation. Revisiting assumptions on a regular basis will prevent staying stuck in the past, even if it once netted great success, and open new questions to learn, remain relevant, spot and move forward to take advantage of opportunities.
The Sounds of Sound Thinking: Good thinking requires reflection as a top priority, in particular examining our role in past successes and failures and using the insights for improvement. Thinking requires focus – not to be done amidst the today’s social bias of multi-tasking, which really is multi-distracting. Sound thinking moves us from day dreaming into doing. Bill outlines 15 precepts of good thinking, from recognizing the power of emotions as other pieces of evidence, to pondering what we don’t know but should, to appreciating that good thinking consumes time that is in proportion to the importance of the goal. Thinking IS work!
Solving the Problem of Problem Solving: Or shouldn’t that be the problem of challenge solving, so that we can reveal some of the greatest opportunities buried amidst the detours to our plans? Are you working on real problems or the symptom of problems by thinking wide enough – considering competing hypotheses and solutions that range from doing nothing to doing something risky or unconventional? Closing the gap between intentions and the successful execution of good solutions calls for having the right knowledge, a culture of truth speaking, keeping emotions (in particular fear) at bay, and managing our perceptions of reality.
Copyright The Larsen Group: Architects of Change 2008