Processing and Pondering

Processing and Pondering

Processing and Pondering

Are we getting a little too process ridden? Every question is answered with a process. Want to improve your exam results? Adopt this process. Looking for better returns on the stock market? Only So-and-So have the best process. There’s even a process for inventing a process, I am sure. I am as guilty – if that’s the right word – as anyone. Years ago I wrote two books of checklists – and they are processes if anything is. But I did preface both books with a serious warning.

Checklists, I said, were stimuli to thought not substitutes for it. If you use them thoughtlessly they will damage your thinking. I’m afraid the process panaceas we are bombarded with today are used as substitutes for thought. Like checklists, they too should be there only to stimulate. It is certainly what we aim to do with the Daily Paradox.

“Which programme do I need?” we are frequently asked. Certainly there are programmes for many situations. You probably need some parts of some of them. You may even need a whole programme. But what you need most is (a) a lot of thought about what your opportunity or problem is (b) flexibility to have help built for you and to be able to adapt it as you make progress. Think of it as though you are going to the opticians. They will have many glasses that simply magnify what you read. You can buy them off the shelf. In practice, you will likely have your eyes properly tested and a prescription made especially for you. That way you will see best of all.

An excellent producer I had when making the Business Nanny tv series years ago used to take me to a business, let me ask as many questions as I wanted then suggest that I ‘ponder’ on the subject for a while before deciding how to make a video about it. She was absolutely right. Gather what you need to know and then PONDER. The opposite of ponder is knee-jerk. I’m afraid we see a lot of that these days. And it’s getting worse. Let’s make a stern effort not to be a jerk.

So what exactly is pondering? Obviously thinking. But it is more than that. Initial thoughts are nearly always about how something affects us – that’s the Selfish Safety Signal without which we wouldn’t survive. Pondering goes further. It thinks a situation through, rather like a game of chess. Don’t worry if you don’t play chess, you know what the implications of it are. Thinking of the other person’s next moves as far ahead, as diversely as you can. That’s what they do in chess.

Pondering is very like a game in which you have to forecast how your opponent will react to any move you make. How do you set about doing that? First, you establish an hypothesis. It doesn’t matter too much that your hypothesis is logical or thought through – setting it up is more important at this stage than getting it right. Let’s take a simple hypothesis about persuading your boss to give you a rise in income. You hypothesis is that since you have just brought in three excellent new clients for him he will be disposed to reward you.

Now examine your hypothesis. Has similar performance by others led to increased wages for them? What conditions have prevailed when others have had promotions? Does you boss have to be in a particular mood or frame of mind to agree to pay you more? Do you need to know if he’s getting on with his wife before you approach him? How can you assess your value to him, now as opposed to three months ago? Does he have the authority to pay more and the money to do so? (This is a sample list of questions; there will be another fifty you can usefully think of.)

When assessing the answers to the questions you have asked yourself about you boss and the situation, remember to take into account his biases and yours. Of all the answers you give yourself about 10% will be relevant. Work out which 10%. Now you are equipped to make your case to your boss. It may be a straightforward request or it may be quite different from that. After all, the most desirable situation is one in which your boss volunteers that you need a raise.

If you achieve that, you can count yourself as a master of communication. Even if you don’t get that far but are given a salary increase, you have won. Award yourself a treat. But what if you fail? Ah, I’m afraid that is not a win. Go back and ask yourself what you failed to do right. And seek some advice.

You are as good a salesperson as the next.

Learn how and win.