As managers, we are required to plan (make predictions), and make decisions. Being intelligent human beings we apply our thinking in a logical fashion. Aristotle taught us about syllogisms – or deductive reasoning. An assertion is either affirmed or denied. The 18th century English mathematician George Boole – whose work has subsequently been adapted to create Boolean logic used in computers - introduced us to the idea of deductive reasoning through mathematical equations.
Let us consider the following: IF A=1 AND B=2, THEN A+B=3. It doesn’t matter how often we repeat this, or who completes the problem, we always get the same answer. The problem with dealing with people is things are more complex, and they can change.
Deliberately exaggerating my point to the point of absurdity, imagine if we applied logic to see if two staff members would work well together on a project.
IF Jack=HAPPY AND Jill=HAPPY, THEN Jack+Jill=HAPPY.
We put them together on the project and it’s a disaster! Why? It may be because Jack is only happy, without Jill. This added complexity is hard, if not impossible, to model, as it may only become apparent when they work together. Hind-sight is an exact science.
Some thoughts for a changed mind-set in management are:
- Be careful of generalisations. In order to stay sane we develop biases and generalisations that allow us to filter information without having to consider it from scratch every time. These generalisations can play havoc with our decision making, as our upbringing and belief systems distort the truth making our initial “assertions” inaccurate.
- Avoid black-and-white thinking. Think AND more than OR. Being open-minded to opposing views and ideas helps increase innovation and staff motivation.
- It is better to get the right outcome, than being right. Scott McNealy (founder of Sun Microsystems) said: I am less worried about “making the right decision” and spend much more time and energy ensuring that any decision I make turns out right.