Prof Henry Mintzberg, McGill professor of strategy, explains that strategic thinking is the application of different sets of perspective so as to see the situation in a more balanced and fair-minded manner. By learning to apply reframing techniques, a business leader can look at a situation more strategically, and come to the right decision. In this article, we share 5 techniques that business leaders can use to reframe the way they see a situation so as to appreciate a situation in a fair-minded manner.
1. Ask a friend
One of the simplest ways is to ask a friend what they thought about how you were viewing the situation, and listen to him/her. It is not what he/she thinks about the situation, but how they view how you see it. By understanding your own perspective, especially from someone you know and trust, you can adjust your own thinking and reactions to the situation.
2. Play Devil’s Advocate
The Devil’s Advocate is actually a person in the Catholic Church who investigates claims of saintly activities carried out by those shortlisted to be canonized. The Devil’s Advocate tries to uncover reasons why the person should not be made a saint. It helps to keep the process on an even keel. In business, anyone can play the role of Devil’s Advocate, throwing out scenarios that run counter to the current thinking, thereby making the leader see things differently, opening up his/her mind, identifying biases, and overcoming blind spots.
3. Be a world’s top expert
Sometimes just situating the mind differently will reap new perspectives. In this activity, simply ask the leader to pull himself out of the situation he is trying to get clarity in and ask,
“If you were the world’s expert in this situation, and you were consulted to offer your opinion on it, what would you say?”
This has had surprisingly great results, the outcomes of which have led deeply entrenched leaders onto a new path, and onto a good decision.
4. What if…
Asking “What If…” questions have also led to revealing perspectives. Questions you could ask yourself include:
“What if I was wrong?”
“What if the competition was better than us?”
“What if we had all the resources in the world?” “What if <someone else, e.g. Jesus> were here, what would He do?”
“What if my family’s life depended on this decision?”
By asking these and any other “What if…” questions, you uncover hidden thoughts that may impact the way you perceive the situation, allowing you to become more fair-minded.
5. Scenario thinking
Scenario thinking is the process of describing the best-case, worst-case and most-likely case scenario of the decision. It also allows you to assess the variability of the decision, and whether you can accept that. If the worst case was a scenario that you could accept, you don’t have much to worry about; if it was a scenario you couldn’t accept, then you could set in motion plans to make it better making that the worst case “less worse”, if there was such a word. This is certainly one way to reframe thinking!
These 5 techniques are simple to apply; yet their simplicity belies their effectiveness. Try them out the next time you are faced with a complex situation and see if you cannot make the right decision.