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Master The World’s Most Valuable Skill

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The world’s most valuable skill is critical thinking.

Unfortunately, overwork and overwhelm keeps people from ever learning how to do it. They spend hours trying to learn technical skills, create fool-proof plans and solve operational problems, while failing to realise the world has changed. What you know how to do simply isn’t as relevant anymore - now, in order to be successful, you have to know how to think.

I know, because I wasted many years and tens of thousands of dollars becoming skilled in the technical elements of strategic planning, business cases and performance reviews.

I went from organisation to organisation, writing the best reports, undertaking the best analysis and presenting the most compelling cases: only to see projects go off-track and people go back to the status quo at the first hurdle. Without a step-by-step plan to stick to, or a facilitator to lead the conversation, they lacked the skills to adapt and change course.

It wasn't until I started teaching leaders to think and work like strategists, and to understand the skills behind decision-making, that I saw implementation skyrocket, change projects completed on time, and organisations flex to the needs of their clients, customers and markets.

The good news is: my loss is your gain.

Here are 3 decision-making frameworks that will save you dozens of painful hours trying to learn critical thinking for yourself:

  1. Chip and Dan Heath's WRAP Framework

The measure of a good decision isn't the outcome you produce - but the process you use to make it. Learning this completely changed the way I thought about decision-making, and the importance I placed on process.

According to the Heath Brothers, you can overcome common decision biases like narrow framing, confirmation bias, short-term emotions and over-confidence by using these four steps for every significant choice you make.

  • W - Widen your Options

  • R - Reality Test Your Assumptions

  • A - Attain Distance

  • P - Prepare for the Worst.

Download a one pager from the Heath Brother's website here.

  1. Greg McKeown's Essentialism Framework

Hang this up in your room somewhere—and stare at it everyday. Greg McKeown, in his book Essentialism, makes the case that the highest point of frustration occurs when we're trying to do everything, now, because we feel like we should. In order to reach the highest point of contribution, we need to do:

  • The Right Thing, at

  • The Right Time, for

  • The Right Reason.

When we focus on these three variables, we don't waste time and energy on activities and decisions that aren't a right-fit. Learn more about Greg McKeown's work here.

  1. Tim Ferris' Fear-Setting Framework

I consider this the gold-standard of strategic risk management and contingency planning. Important decisions will always come with risks, consequences and unforeseen problems. Instead of trying to eliminate the negative and plan for the best, Ferris advises people to complete a pre-mortem that simulates potential responses. By drawing up a three column table with:

  • The worst things that might happen

  • The steps you can take to prevent those

  • The ways you will respond if they do happen

You're able to prepare for a more pragmatic future, rather than being thrown off course at the first unexpected obstacle. For more information on fear setting, and some useful downloads, check out Tim's blog here.

These three frameworks completely changed the way I thought about decision-making, and the support I was able to offer leaders in developing the skills they needed to keep their tricky programmes on track.

I hope they're useful for you.


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