Monthly Archives: February 2019


Strategically Sequencing the Engagement of Great Thinkers

At The Fedcap Group, whenever we are contemplating a new idea to solve a problem, we are deliberate in our approach.

We begin by gathering the most optimistic, creative, positive people both internal and external to the agency. They are invited for their optimism, their confidence that new ideas can work, their belief in all that is possible. We pose a series of clear, bold, and penetrating questions intended to drive new learning and discovery. We spend a lot of time framing the questions. At this phase, we are much less interested in getting to the right answer than we are asking the right questions.

And then we invite these creative thinkers to go at it—building on each other’s ideas and inspired by the idea that we really can change the world. There is little more exciting than a group of positive thinkers who believe in the power of unseen and untested solutions.

Once an idea is formed, we then invite another group of smart, creative people into the room. But this time, we invite people we know to be the pragmatists—the realists—who will argue with us, identify the flaws in our thinking, pose many questions, and who will help us identify the pitfalls and risks we might not have considered in our initial enthusiasm. All too often, people can overestimate the benefit of an idea or a project or a solution, but then underestimate the cost or consequence of whatever it is that we are proposing to do.

The order of invitations matters. I have learned the hard way that you never invite the pragmatists to the first meeting—they will stop the creative flow. And in the second meeting, you need to guard against letting the optimists drown out the voices of those who see legitimate risks.

Good problem-solving needs both. I believe that the strongest organizations possess the internal and external connections to solve important societal problems.

I am lucky in that I work alongside a team of extraordinary thinkers who help me lead and who inspire the best thinking of all of us. Together, I think of us as a team of realistic optimists, knowing that we share one thing in common—a commitment to sustainable and relevant impact and a commitment to the Power of Possible.


Critical Thinking: Unpacking Our Biases

Recently, I was presenting to our Leadership Academy Class on the topic of critical thinking. I thoroughly enjoy these discussions with up and coming leaders within our organization.

The discussion was rich and full of wonderful exchange. I am always curious about happens when one takes a step back and truly assesses one’s own thinking. It is a fascinating process and it is a commitment to bringing a “beginner’s mind” to every situation.

One of the most compelling parts of the conversation was around the topic of bias.

We all carry biases and prejudices with us They come from our upbringing, from our culture, from our education, and from our experiences. Many people think of bias and prejudice as a bad thing—something to be eliminated. Not only do I think that is impossible, but I believe it misses the point. We are not a blank slate—hopefully we have had a life of learning, of contemplation, of reflection that has formed a lens for how we see the world.

What is imperative is that we understand our biases and how they act as a filter, sorting the value of information and ideas according to our frame of reference. For the most part, people hate cognitive dissonance. They reject information that does not align with their understanding of the world. Once we know this about ourselves, this should open our eyes to the likelihood that if biases go unchecked, we might end up missing vital information. Critical thinkers are loathe to make decisions without vital information.

I shared with the class that while I have several very intentional approaches to informing my biases, one of my most effective is to ask many, many, strategic and pointed questions. Anyone who has spent any time with me knows that when they present an idea to me, the time will be filled with answering questions. This is because when I hear information, it naturally falls into my framework (fraught with missing information), and questions help me acquire a level of understanding that is required to make an informed decision. This process is at the heart of my approach to critical thinking.

How do you assess your thinking? How are you at your own meta-cognition? What do you have yet to learn to help you think better about your thinking? As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.