Deep thinking is a super power in today’s frenetic business environment. But it’s not always easy to achieve, especially if you are leading a team.
Even if your team is full of smart people, they are probably scattered across too many responsibilities and chasing too many goals.
Still, the best way to move your particular initiative forward might be to slow down and get some of that deeper thinking going.
The problem is that today’s work culture often goes the other way.
People scurry from one meeting to the next, scramble to and from work in a tedious morass of traffic, and text, email, and chat ceaselessly throughout the day (and night).
This is where reading as a team can help.
After all, the world is not just growing more and more fast paced, it’s also growing increasingly complex.
Gaining a nuanced understanding of problems is much more important than it used to be.
Fortunately, the world is also more connected and abundant in information that it ever has been.
Which means you have pretty much everything you need at your fingertips.
You just need to put it to use.
Giving people information to read is an obvious choice.
With a little research, you can find documents that provide tremendous information and insight into just about anything you are working on.
By acting as a curator for your team, you can lead the way to new ideas, unique perspectives, and detailed information.
If everyone read through the same set of information, it would certainly help to get you all “on the same page.” It would ensure that everyone has the same base level of knowledge. And it would spark lots of discussion and new ideas from the team itself.
So you email a few links around, buy everyone a copy of a great book, or share some beefy PDFs.
And then not much happens. Probably because everybody is busy chasing lots of other things around. They likely also already have a huge backlog of information to read through.
Sure, they’ll skim it. If it has a good title, they may browse a couple of paragraphs. Maybe they will even glance at some of the bullet points or a graphic in the document.
But they probably won’t get to the deep thinking you were hoping they would. And you may never get that deep thinking to gel across the team.
Unless you lead the way. And not just by example.
Jeff Bezos makes Amazon execs read 6-page memos at the start of each meeting.
“If we don’t, the executives, like high school kids, will try to bluff their way through a meeting,” he says.
So he uses shared time as a sort of “study hall” in order to emphasize the importance of reading and how it leads to deep thinking. This sets up a good context for discussion.
Actually leading your team through a reading exercise can have a tremendous impact.
And you don’t need to run a study hall to do it.
You can dole out reading assignments separately from discussions.
For example, you might distribute a paper on certain regulations and ask team members to read it.
Then, you can schedule follow up meetings to discuss the paper. You can lead a discussion on what each person thought were the most important points. Which were the most pertinent points to your organization.
You might ask about which questions this helped to answer for people. And about what new questions it raises.
The same approach can work for reading on a new technology, updated software procedures, or market research.
It’s like running a little book club of sorts.
You might have one-on-one discussions with certain team members, meet in small groups, or facilitate a discussion with a big group.
Maybe it would be appropriate to do all of the above to promote the sort of deep thinking you want from the team.
The results can be amazing.
New energy, new ideas
As you help your team to flex those deep thinking muscles, they may appreciate it.
It can be rare these days to delve into nuanced conversation. And it can be refreshing to have a meeting that isn’t aimed at tracking and ticking off mundane action items that only scratch at the surface of an issue.
Smart people like to think. They like to exchange ideas. They like to learn new things.
Using the old noggin can become quite energizing. And one good discussion may spawn a number of additional ones.
Whatever challenges and opportunities your team faces, your team will probably benefit from some deep thinking on key issues.
Today’s frenzied environment can work against you in this effort. But you can do something to promote more deep thinking.
But you won’t have much success if you casually dole out reading assignments to a bunch of already inundated people.
You will be more successful if you actively lead the way. If you demonstrate that reading and processing new and important information is a priority.
One of the best ways you can do that is to schedule time for this reading and processing. Particularly the processing part.
If you can lead individual, small group, and/or larger group discussions like mini book groups, you will be sending a clear signal to your team.
What’s more, you will be cultivating an exchange of ideas that will add energy and excitement to the team.