Let's say you manage 4-5 direct reports. In a culture where rigorous thinking is expected, the idea is this: Any idea goes, but each team member should be prepared to advocate for their idea and defend it. You should be prepared to walk through the upside, downside, data points rooted in reality, and how it works given your assets and constraints. Anyone can ask questions and probe, and these questions are received with gratitude and openness.
In this way, rigorous thinking acts as a force multiplier and fosters a spirit of entrepreneurialism and ownership among your team. It’s lonely and stressful to be the only one thinking about what to do, looking around the corner to anticipate what’s next.
Rigorous thinking is asking critical questions about tactics, and having a systematic way of making decisions.
Counterintuitively, rigorous thinking saves you time. Instead of jumping to execute the first idea you think of, you run through basic considerations to stress test your own logic.
The opposite of rigorous thinking is lazy thinking. Lazy thinking is making assumptions you don't even know are assumptions. It's having a black box of logic where "suddenly it works and we have thousands of customers."
🚫 Lazy thinking: "Hey boss, can we do [insert random tactic]?" Result: You have to think through everything, which leads to decision fatigue. You’re running around correcting your team’s missteps. The mistakes range from minor to major oversights in strategic thinking. Shiny object syndrome rules. Half-baked ideas come across your desk, so you have to think of polite ways to say why this isn’t a good idea without discouraging your team.
✅ Rigorous thinking: "Hey boss, I recommend we do ___. It's likely to work and is worth the time and budget because ___. The downside and potential risks are ___. But we can minimize the risk with a small experiment by doing ___.” In this world, you rarely say no to an idea, because it's not about saying yes or no. It's about vetting an idea. You ask strategic questions, so your employee ends up realizing themselves that the idea won't work in its current iteration.
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