In any classroom, kids quickly find out that they learn subjects at a faster or slower rate than others. And though our system of education provides children with many opportunities to catch up with their peers, real-life situations we encounter as adults might not be so forgiving. This is especially true when you’re in a leadership position and have to make big decisions on short notice, sometimes even on the fly.
Ideally, you’d be able to sit down with your team and go through a careful process of planning and weighing all the relevant pros and cons. However, that’s a luxury few people can afford. These tactics will help you to sort through what matters and think quickly to get great results:
Enhance your learning process
You don’t get to be a leader without being able to delegate to some extent, and sometimes learning can be facilitated by others. Just as lawyers help clients sort through the complexities of buying a property with conveyancing services, you can turn to experts and have them summarize the critical points of a situation using their body of existing knowledge.
Still, not all tasks can be outsourced. If consultation is not an option, you might have to fall back on your innate mental ability. This is where it helps to develop your skill of learning continuously. Take on the challenge of speed reading and acquiring new knowledge each day.
Take notes by hand to improve retention. Find someone with whom you can attempt to practice teaching back the subject. These strategies are known to facilitate student learning, and incorporating them into your habits will help speed up your learning process.
Make use of mental models
Academics or enthusiasts can pursue learning for the long-term or their own pleasure. In contrast, leaders rarely seek knowledge without a context; it usually has to be applied to solve a problem, somewhere. Rather than attempt to become an expert in an unfamiliar domain, you can invest in becoming familiar with mental models.
Take the Pareto principle, for instance. 20% of your work drives 80% of your results. Following that model, you only have to identify which 20% of a problem will bring in the 80% of outcomes that will ultimately matter most. Other examples of mental models include SWOT and PEST analysis. They all serve as heuristics, which simplify problems and reduce the complexity of factors you need to consider to reach the right decision.
Avoid the ‘green lumber’ problem
Effective action often lies at the heart of any good leadership decision. At what point are too much talk and knowledge of a subject detrimental to your success? This was effectively conveyed in a story by author Jim Paul and cited by Nassim Nicholas Taleb as the ‘green lumber fallacy.‘ You don’t even need to know what green lumber is to make a fortune trading in it.
When faced with a task that seemingly requires you to process a lot of information, ask yourself: Do I really need to master all that knowledge, or can I get the desired result by merely drawing from relevant experience, founded upon action? Sometimes, talk is just talk, and it’s the doers who still get the job done.
You’ll encounter a lot of situations that require quick thinking. Having these tools in your arsenal will help you to find the approach that works best and simplify your decision-making.