The Advantages Of Slow Thinking
Fast thinking can be an asset under the right conditions. There are some professions—emergency services, law enforcement, and the military especially—in which having the ability to evaluate and judge situations quickly is a vital asset. However, you, as a man of business, are in a career that for the most part requires critical rather than quick thinking.
You may not always feel as though this is the case. One of the effects of an electronically-driven world is that the pace of business seems to move at the same lightning speed as the atomic particle supporting it. You are daily put under pressure to respond and respond and respond—to texts and emails as soon as you get them. At times, there may be good reasons for this. You may be in tight competition with others to secure a deal. Or you may need to pass along information to a colleague who is in a crucial meeting. But these are exceptional circumstances. In most instances, you are in a position to take your time in making decisions.
Sound reasoning in decision-making in particular and problem-solving in general includes identifying the specific issue, gathering the facts related to it, discerning the significance of each fact, formulating possible courses of action, analyzing the possible consequences of each action, and determining the best course of action given the circumstances. How quickly you’re able to go through this process depends greatly on how familiar you are with the kind of problem you’re confronted with. However, some form of this kind of thinking is essential to all good decision-making.
Another name for slow thinking is rational or critical thinking. In an age which seems to reward those who are first to obtain and respond to information, the idea of taking one’s time to digest such information appears arch. However, doing so produces a number of advantages, including:
The more you pull apart an issue the more insight you get into its nature. Slow thinking allows you to reflect on what is at stake in the problem you’re dealing with. The problem may be many-sided; and if you make an effort to see its connections to the other concerns of the business, you will get a better understanding of its scale and scope. You will also be able to get a clear view of what it doesn’t involve, which is often as important as knowing what it does involve.
There is a difference between good decisions and good outcomes. Office politics usually demands that someone take the rap for a decision that leads to a bad outcome. The work you did to understand the issue before coming to your decision will pay off regardless of how things turn out. If things go poorly you will be able to defend your decision by recounting the facts you pulled together and the scenarios you entertained. You will, in other words, be able to demonstrate the soundness of your decision, despite the resulting outcome.
Again, drawing on what you’ve learned by having thought matters through: you will be able to determine alternative paths to solving a problem or gaining an advantage. Having a firm grasp of the issue will galvanize your imagination. It will encourage you to think of different means to the same end. Far from hindering creativity, as it is sometimes believed to do, critical thinking actually extends it; and gives you the ability to see more possibilities.
This gained advantage is closely related to the last one. The more you think about an issue the greater clarity you get on it. And don’t let anyone stop you by bringing up the bugbear of “overthinking”. Indeed, the notion of overthinking is one that is too easily invoked. You should always be wary of persons who accuse you of it. Such individuals either have their own agenda or are unwilling to think critically about anything at all. Bear in mind that you have the ability to think deeply about more than one thing at a time, and that doing so will not drain your cognitive resources or stop you from getting other work done.
Of course, not every issue requires the kind of slow thinking I’ve described. As a professional who knows your job and your business, you will have an intuitive feel for the issues that require special attention and concentration. When they come up, you should not be afraid to properly think them through.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.