Critical Thinking, while rational, isn’t always about rational ideas.
Sometimes critical thinking is mistaken for slow, conservative and “within the box” thinking. While precise and considered, critical thinking is also powerful when used on some of the most outlandish ideas. Consider this technique when resources are low.
Businesses generally grow incrementally
, either through organic growth or small acquisitions. This results in incremental thinking, i.e. a little bit more, or less, at a time. We incrementally increase, or decrease, our budgets, headcount, schedules, and expenditures. While not always easy to do, the roadmap is easily understood and accepted, as this thinking usually results in only modest changes.
Introducing a radical departure from the norm.
As a task becomes more difficult we tend to work harder to accomplish that task. This is usually a rational tactic and gets the job done. So naturally when we look at projects to do, or goals to accomplish, we’ll tend to increase (or decrease) our resources to accomplish the job. For example, let’s say you are asked to carry a 1 pound weight across the room. No problem. Make it 2 pounds, or 3 or 5. No problem. What about 10, or 20, or 100? You might workout to develop more muscles so that you can carry the 100 pound weight. But what about 1,000 or 10,000 pounds. At this point your incremental method (building muscle so you carry just a little bit heavier weight) no longer works. You need a radical departure from the method you are using to be successful; (maybe forklift, or skids, etc.)
Apply this to business:
You’re on a project with 10 people, yet the project calls for additional headcount. However, there is a hiring freeze. Subsequent conversations lead to ideas such as; extending the schedule, or working longer hours, or cutting some of the project deliverables, or outsourcing. What about this one? What would you do if you only had 3 people to work on this project? Is this Radical? Is this Stupid? Ridiculous? Absurd? But what if it was true what would you do? This type of Radical scenario will stimulate ideas that you would have never considered with a project that fell just a little short of the necessary headcount.
How about a scenario regarding time?
Let’s say your team figured out that a project will take 14 months to accomplish, although the request is for 1 year. Again, you consider adding headcount, or cutting some features, perhaps contracting out some of the work. All good ideas. But what if you had to accomplish the project in 3 months. How would you do it?
. We all wish we had more money. Let’s say you had a budget of X dollars for incremental expenditures, including capital, but the project estimate called for more, say 20% more. You can move $’s around from other budgets, lobby for more, freeze or reduce salaries, or take an advance of a capital budget for the future. What if you considered doing the project with only 20% of the dollars you had in the first place. You might certainly generate some truly out of the box ideas for this one.
As you consider incremental solutions to accomplish a goal, task, or project, also ask the absurd question regarding the availability of only a fraction of the resources conduct this “what if” conversation. While the result might be too radical, or simply not practical to fully implement, you will often uncover a few ideas that are achievable, and can help you successfully implement a new plan.