Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


Don't forget to use your Spock brain

In my last post, I encouraged people to use their Kirk brain in business. Now, let's look at the flip side - engaging your Spock brain.

In many organizations I've worked with, people often make decisions using "gut feel," or based on who's complaining loudest, who's got the most compelling story, and things like that.  Guess what - there is another way.


Give me the facts

With many business decisions, you can learn a lot just by looking at what's already happened.  Gather data on the current situation, look at historical trends, and see what patterns may emerge.  This is often a good way to identify root cause of past issues, and sanity check your hypotheses for the future.

Go beyond the hype

How many times do you choose to do something because "everybody is saying x," or "I just talked to Joe, and this is a big problem," or some other seemingly compelling claim?

It is easy, particularly when you are working with someone who knows how to push the right buttons, to make decisions based on emotional pleas or drama.  While these claims may be a good indicator of where problems exist, don't just rely on "latest & loudest" to drive your actions.  Gather data, assess the situation, and determine whether you really have a good handle on the problem (both in nature and magnitude) before you jump to action.

This is also a place where it makes sense to document the evidence, rather than relying on word of mouth - as the saying goes, sometimes the story grows in the telling.  Forcing the discipline of writing down the problem, steps taken, and other aspects of the situation can serve well to take some of the emotion out of the discussion.

Sanity check (aka "Use someone else's Spock brain")

When you're too close to a problem, your perspective can deceive you.  It may be helpful to join forces with someone else who can take a more detached, objective look at the situation.  Often, they will ask questions you haven't asked, identify pattern you didn't see, or bring a different set of experiences to bear on the problem which can help you come up with new solutions.

How do you know if you aren't using your Spock brain enough?

There is not one litmus test, but some good indicators that your organization may be ignoring the facts are:

  • It feels like you are making the same mistakes over and over again, which means you are ignoring data from the past;
  • It feels like certain people always get their way in your organization because they know what emotional buttons to push to derail the current plan in favor of their new pet project;
  • Your priorities keep getting changed based on fire drills and crises;
  • You find that no matter how hard people work on fixing problems in the business, they never seem to get better.

The bottom line is that you should ensure you aren't letting the Tyranny of the Urgent, or Management by Hype cause you to do things that perpetuate the problem.  Taking a step back and using your Spock brain to look at the facts is a useful skill for any manager.