You’re facing a crisis and working hard not to panic. Sure, it’s not your first emergency, and you survived the others. What tools can you use this time to not only survive, but maintain clear thinking in the midst of chaos?
Use situational awareness. Law enforcement officers, who deal with life-or-death situations, are trained to avoid cognitive blindness. That’s what happens when we face a threat. We focus in on the one thing that’s giving us trouble. Officers are trained to develop situational awareness or the ability to mentally widen out. Think of it as a camera lens that pulls back to wide angle. Rather than focusing your thinking on the narrow threat, expand to take in the larger picture.
To broaden your thinking, ask these questions:
- What are the peripheral issues that have an impact on this crisis?
- What other industries might we learn from?
- What other situations have we been involved with that might inform our actions?
To deepen your thinking, ask:
- What are the potential outcomes of the situation now? In the future?
- What other perspectives aren’t we considering?
- What data are we using to make a decision?
- What other data point to a different conclusion?
- What assumptions are we making, even without being consciously aware of them?
Try the rule of six. When things go bad, we want to quickly zero in on “the answer.” Judy Sorum Brown shares the rule of six, which was taught to her by Paula Underwood, a Native American leader and author. Basically, this means that we come up with at least 6 possible answers to our problem. The most challenging aspect of the rule of 6 is that you must hold each of those 6 answers in your head and not immediately choose from among them. This allows you to be open to a wider range of thoughts and perspectives. As you discuss and examine all 6 without judging, you are able to be a true systems thinker, without having to champion “your” idea.
We all want to be like Henry Kissinger, who said, “There cannot be a crisis today; my schedule is already full.” Like it or not, you’ll face predicaments that must be solved. Giving yourself (and your team) a wider head space in which to think will mean a better solution. And because it’s the best resolution to the problem, you probably won’t have to deal with that same crisis again. Good riddance.
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