Why choose strategic thinking?

How do you approach difficult decisions like switching careers, or dealing with competition, versus everyday decisions like the route you take to work, or the time you go to bed?

In his book “Thinking Fast and Slow” Daniel Kahneman, tells us that most of the time the answer is the same: Many of our decisions are automatic and influenced by numerous “cognitive biases”, which often leads to costly mistakes in key areas of our lives.

Inside our minds there is a constant battle going on between logic and intuition — or “gut feel”. A good way to visualize this is to imagine Logic and Intuition are different people that live inside our heads. Logic is extremely smart, but he likes to sleep in; it’s always Sunday morning, and he doesn’t want to be disturbed unless you’re willing to risk a headache.

Intuition, is friendly, easy going, and fast — for Intuition life is simple, his motto is: why walk if you can run, just go with the flow.

For most of our decisions, Intuition is our friend, he keeps us sane and makes us productive, but for complicated, important or new stuff, we want to work with Logic and many of us would assume that’s exactly what we do, but it’s not always that simple.

As creatures of habit we often assume everything is simple until proven complicated. If we encounter something that is complicated we will switch to Logic, but there’s a caveat — Logic’s ability to help us depends on the sort of starting point Logic is given. Strong starting points work well, but if Logic hasn’t seen this sort of problem before a couple of things are likely to happen:

  • Logic will use the closest starting point it knows, to solve the problem — which may lead to the wrong decision
  • Logic will give up, and pass the problem back to Intuition, who may convince you this decision isn’t worth the trouble

You can try this out, just ask yourself a challenging question. (I’ve added a few below just in case):

  1. Should I stick with my current career and why?
  2. What’s my growth strategy and why?
  3. Should Apple buy Netflix?
  4. Why did Hillary lose?
  5. What’s my purpose in life?

Tough questions — but I believe that happiness and success have everything to do with our ability to be focused and present when we face these challenges, that there are a set of mental models that can help us tackle big decisions, in a different and effective way. Identifying and applying these approaches are what I’ve come to define as Strategic Thinking, and they will be the focus of demuddled.com (this blog)

Every week I’ll focus on an area that will help our Logic with stronger starting points. This may involve talking about a fully baked strategy complete with examples or looking at an individual pattern or tool that makes it easier to break problems down. Eventually I believe these approaches become second nature, as we naturally weave them into our experience and our intuition, allowing us to develop stronger responses to challenging questions, with surprising efficiency.

What are some of the things you do to force yourself to deliberately think things through rather than relying on intuition?

Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Raj