Why Being Right Can Be So Wrong

You're wrong, right?

Have you ever noticed that you’re always right?

You probably don’t believe that everything you think and say is the final, capital-T TRUTH—not at a conscious level, anyway. But like me, you probably tend to act that way.

That’s because each of us defines for ourselves what’s true and what’s untrue. We grow attached to a body of beliefs, which means that we resist new ideas. We tolerate other people’s opinions to the extent that they match our own. Beyond that, we unconsciously tune out.

When choosing friends, we gravitate toward people who agree with us. When encountering a new idea, we argue against it. We look for ways to make people wrong. When seeking feedback or solving a problem, we search out the people who reinforce us. We’d rather get validated than get challenged.

In other words, we’re always “right.” Read more

The SAGA of Managing Your Thinking in a Chaotic World

Today’s biggest cognitive challenge—especially at work—is managing the sheer volume of information and noise in the environment. No matter how skilled you think you are at multi-tasking, what you’re really asking your brain to do is task switch, and there’s plenty of research that shows the brain just isn’t very good at it.

So how do you get clarity and results when your attention is fragmented?

You have to consciously choose to manage your thinking. And that’s where filters come into play.

Clarity requires metacognition—thinking about your thinking: what you notice, where your mental energy goes, what you overlook. These are your mental filters.

Mental filters take the infinite streams of data that are available to you and separate what you notice from what you tend not to notice. The problem is your filters are not freely chosen. Instead, they’re put in place by unconscious forces. They work at a level below your conscious awareness.

Once you realize you have a set of filters in place, however, you can make them conscious. You can shine the light of awareness on them, bring them out in the open, examine them and evaluate them.

At that point you’re free to change filters. If your current set of filters is creating more complexity than clarity, then choose new filters. The key is to manage your filters instead of letting them manage you. When you do, they’ll help you:

  • Focus attention by pointing at what’s most important for you to notice right now and what you do not need to pay attention to.
  • Make meaning by consciously choosing how to interpret the events you notice.
  • Move into action based on your interpretations with an understanding of the mental demands required.

The way you habitually think on a daily basis—your default filters—can create blind spots that prevent you, your team and your organization from getting what you want.

You can use the Whole Brain® Model to recognize these default filters without judging yourself (level 1 meta cognition). With this baseline knowledge, you can intentionally put new mental filters in place to shift your mindset, discover your options and take action to get results you want (level 2 meta cognition).

There are many filters, and none of them are “right” for all people at all times. As I’ve worked in the field of Whole Brain® Thinking over the past 30 years, I’ve sorted through hundreds of options. But I’ve found that the following four filters apply to the challenges most of us are or will be facing. You can remember them by the acronym SAGA:

  •  Solving—Question your assumptions, shift your mindset and create breakthrough solutions.
  •  Aligning—Collaborate, leverage disagreement and get to closure even in the midst of conflict.
  •  Growing—Change at a deeper level when internal motivation or external challenges move you toward significant, long-term learning.
  •  Adapting—Flex your thinking and change your behavior in response to challenges that don’t require deep learning.

I’ll be exploring this topic more over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, think about this: Which filter can you leverage right now for maximum benefit?


How efficient is your sales thinking?

With so many of us pressed for time and juggling more and more responsibilities, it doesn’t make sense to focus energy and attention on areas that will be unnecessary—or even detrimental—to the sale.

By learning how to diagnose the thinking styles of customers, sales people can quickly engage their prospects, understand their pain points, articulate value in a more compelling way, and close deals faster.

But this isn’t just a strategy that will benefit the sales team.

Whether you’re selling a product or service, trying to get buy-in for your ideas, or need to work more productively with internal customers and stakeholders, paying attention to their thinking helps you get outside your own head so you can focus on what’s really driving the decision-making process for that specific person.

So, how do you think like your customer?

In a video lesson for Athena Online’s MyQuickCoach series, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, explains how specific questions, comments and even the environment can reveal a great deal about:

  • What your customer cares about
  • How they prefer to be communicated with
  • What types of information you should focus on, and just as importantly, the kinds you don’t want or need to waste time on

As you watch the video, consider how you might apply a knowledge of customer thinking to improve other areas of your business, including:

  • Improving the efficiency and user-friendliness of processes
  • Fine-tuning marketing and communication approaches
  • Developing, segmenting or redesigning product offerings

Watch the video: Connecting with the Customer

“Thinking Managers” More Critical Than Ever


In his groundbreaking book, The Creative Brain, Ned Herrmann wrote about the important move to Whole Brain® management as a necessity for business survival and success. The primarily left-mode thinking (A and B quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model) prevalent in most organizations’ leadership teams would hold them back, he warned, because:

The right brain (especially D quadrant) is the only part of our brains that deals effectively with change. As essential as left-modes are to business success, they spell slow death for a company when used without the right-brain modes…If change is constant, in order to compete effectively in a world characterized by change, business managers must function in all four of the brain’s different modes, right as well as left, upper as well as lower.

 Today, we’re seeing this play out almost to the extreme. Managers at all levels are requiring increased agility to deal with a level and pace of change, complexity and uncertainty that’s even more intense than it was when Ned first wrote about it.

 But what exactly is Whole Brain® management? Ned emphasizes that it’s not about de-emphasizing the left modes of thinking or putting the right modes into “exclusive ascendance.” It’s also not about mentally restructuring the corporation:

What I do mean is this: When designing and implementing responses to business issues and challenges, the human brain functions at its most innovative, productive best only when all four quadrants engage situationally and iteratively in the process.

 In mental terms, this means no organization that restricts its mental options to A and B quadrants alone can hope to prevail over the organization that uses A, B, C and D.

 For managers, in particular, that means realizing “that we function situationally—that we have equal access to all four [styles of thinking] so that when the situation calls for a given type of mental function, we can give it our best response.”

 Check out our recent white paper, Navigating in an Unpredictable and Complex World: Why Thinking Agility is Critical to a Manager’s Success, for tips and strategies to help today’s managers use their own—and others’— thinking in the most optimal way.

Because the more things change, the more we need Whole Brain® management!

“Living Agile Thinking” at Swisscom

On a recent visit to Swisscom in Bern, Switzerland, Herrmann International CEO Ann Herrmann-Nehdi explored some of the ways the telecommunications provider is integrating Whole Brain® Thinking into its culture to build the thinking agility and flexibility necessary to better serve the needs of its customers.

Watch the video to learn how Swisscom is preparing for a changing world by “living agile thinking.”

The Case for Slower Management: Agility Isn’t Just About Speed

There’s a famous line from the movie The Princess Bride that could easily refer to the way so many of us define what it means to be agile leaders and managers:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

When I hear the word “agility,” my first thought is always: Speed. I need to constantly be moving fast, staying nimble in the face of continual changes and complexities. It’s as if the old playground game of “Think Fast!” has become the daily battle cry, and I have to not only stay ahead of the pace but also be ready to shift on a dime when the unexpected comes up.

But I’ve also come to realize there’s a real cost to this kind of thinking, particularly when it comes to my role in developing strategy. How can I be effectively agile in my thinking and decision making if I haven’t taken the time to process what’s really going on around me and what it will take to get where I need to go?

We’ve become conditioned to believe that agility always equals speed, that slowness in management is always a bad thing, and that the “left brain” concepts of step-by-step planning and deliberateness are somehow no longer really necessary in a fluid, uncertain world, one in which novelty and edginess seem to rule the day.

After all, what’s cool about critical analysis?

When it comes to agility, being fast is only part of the equation. Speed and nimbleness may be “sexy,” but they don’t replace the basics, what we know to be true about good management. An either/or approach to thinking — this idea that if you have enough speed, it cancels out the need for deliberate planning and other management essentials — will fail every time. If anything, greater levels of speed demand higher levels of managerial competence in all areas.

In other words, to be successful at going fast, you have to be successful at being slow, too.

This is a paradox managers have always had to deal with to some degree, but the tension has never been greater than today. We’ve become accustomed to moving rapidly in many different directions at once. This year we need to resolve to make the time to get more deliberate, to go slow, too.

To increase your agility:

  •  Banish “either/or” thinking: Swift and deliberate, open minded and decisive, consistent and adaptable – agility requires embracing an “and” mentality.
  • Get back to basics: Good management never goes out of style. Especially in a complex, challenging environment, the basics not only have to be mastered, they need to be second nature.
  • Use Whole Brain® Thinking: Regardless of what seems “cool” or where your thinking preferences lie, remember that all thinking styles are essential to getting the best results. If you want creativity and collaboration to flourish and succeed, you have to have a clear understanding of the facts and an effective process in place to get you there. Ultimately, it’s about finding the right balance.

Are you missing the time to go slow? Is it affecting your results? Share with us how you’re dealing with the managerial paradox of going faster while become more deliberate in your thinking.


Developing Managers? Start With Their Thinking.

“Agility” has become one of the hot buzzwords of the workplace today. As we settle in to a reality of rapid changes, continual uncertainty and new circumstances that have very little precedent and no clear-cut answers, everyone is feeling the pressure to adapt, to flex, to shift on a dime.

In many organizations, it’s the managers and emerging leaders who are on the front lines of this pressure. As Tom Davenport of Towers Watson put it, “Creating a resilient workplace that can deal with trauma and come out engaged on the other end is not a senior executive’s role. It’s a line manager’s job.”

Ultimately, managers are the ones responsible for bridging strategy and performance, for taking the organization from Point A to Point B faster and more effectively, even when it seems as though there’s always too much work and never enough time or resources to get it done.

A recent Forbes article describes agile leaders as those who can “handle any curve ball thrown their way. Leading through this new business environment requires the capability to sense and respond to changes in the business environment with actions that are focused, fast and flexible.”

The question is, are your managers up to the task? Between putting out fires and managing the daily workflow, getting people to bring their best thinking to work while optimizing communication time and managing relationships up, down and across the company, it takes a whole new level of intensity and skill to keep up.

Thinking is the catalyst for greater manager agility.

In essence, where agile managers outshine all the others is in their ability to successfully deconstruct today’s complexities to take advantage of the right resources for the job, and by doing so, get better results faster.

Our research has shown that the way people prefer to think impacts how they approach interactions, decisions, problems and every other aspect of work and management. By understanding and then optimizing their thinking for the situation, managers can increase their agility and overall effectiveness exponentially across the board.

Here are just a few questions to consider as you look at your management development activities in the context of building thinking agility.

  •  Do your managers know how to stretch beyond their thinking preferences when necessary to execute where you need to go?
  • Do they know how to leverage their own brainpower and the brainpower around them in the most efficient, optimal ways?
  • Do they understand how to best manage and allocate the thinking resources on a project or initiative?
  • Do they know how to optimize and shorten communication time, regardless of whom they are interacting with?
  • Can they quickly adapt to the communication needs of others?
  • Much of management’s focus in the past has been on individuals, but effective collaboration is becoming more important for better, faster and more innovative results. Do your managers know how to encourage collaboration, bring together the best cognitive resources for the task at hand, and participate in a collaborative way to make sure objectives are achieved?

To get the “Agile Leader’s Toolbox: 4 Key Areas to Increase Agility Through Better Thinking,” download our new white paper, Navigating in an Unpredictable and Complex World: Why Thinking Agility is Critical to a Manager’s Success.

What about you? Have you seen a need for greater agility in your own role? Is it impacting the way you approach the job?