#297 from Innovative Leader Volume 6, Number 9          September 1997

How Well Does Your Organization “Think”?
by Ron Evans

Ron Evans is a Practice Leader and Partner in Kepner-Tregoe, Inc., a Princeton, NJ-based (phone 609-497-0130), international consulting firm, specializing in strategy formulation and implementation, complexity reduction, and the development of critical thinking capabilities.

Since brains are replacing brawn and intellectual capital is rapidly becoming the most important “natural” resource, then how much of your organization’s collective thinking is being tapped to resolve the big strategic and operational issues?  How much is being applied to the more mundane, day-to-day problems and decisions that can impair or advance competitiveness and profitability?

We recently surveyed* a large sample of managers and their staff, and found that each group felt that less than 50% of the collective brainpower of their organization is used.  But with current information overload, pancaking of organizational structures, teaming of the work environment, and speed as a new corporate value, organizations need to marshal the critical thinking capabilities of the entire workforce.  That so many organizations fail to do so, constitutes a major crisis.

Take the following test to see how well your organization engages the critical thinking capabilities—the collective brainpower—of its employees. 

The numbers 1 through 4 indicate the score for each answer.  Circle the best answer, then add your responses for the total score.

Tapping Collective Brainpower

Encouraging applied thinking at every level is an essential condition for organizational learning—and competitiveness.  In general, how much of your organization’s thinking ability do you believe is actually being used?

     1                                  2                                  3                                  4

     0-25%                           26-50%                       51-75%                  76-100%

Thinking Quality

The quality revolution has transformed how companies produce goods, but how defect-free is our thinking?  If you were to compare the speed and quality of your organization’s overall thinking ability to one of the following vehicles, which one would you choose?

     1                                  2                                  3                                  4

     Yugo®                 Mack Truck®                     Ford Taurus®               Ferrari®

Systematic Priority Setting

Issue swirl—the rapidly changing set of issues that continually confront organizations—puts a premium on clear, systematic thinking and priority setting.  Does your organization use a systematic approach to setting priorities?

     1                                  2                                  3                                  4

     Rarely                    Sometimes                    Most of the time               Always

Rational Problem Solving and Decision Making

The ability to solve problems and make decisions is the acid test of thinking effectiveness.  Is “gut feel” the way problems get solved and decisions get made in your organization?

     1                                  2                                  3                                  4

     Always              Most of the time                   Sometimes                       Rarely

Forward Thinking

Failing to prepare for the future can lead to serious trouble or missed opportunities.  The ability to anticipate changing conditions is a uniquely human quality and a key to competitive success.  How often does management anticipate potential problems and opportunities in your organization or unit?

     1                                  2                                    3                                  4

     Rarely                    Sometimes                      Most of the time                  Always

Thinking Barriers

Every organization has its own invisible barriers to thinking.  But few barriers are more troublesome than poorly developed thinking skills, especially among workers.  In your organization, do hourly workers receive training to improve their thinking skills?

     1                                  2                                  3                                  4

     Rarely                    Sometimes                    Most of the time                  Always


Clear thinking depends on every employee having an understandable context to guide his or her efforts, everything from knowing the basics of the organization’s business strategy to understanding the actions taken by senior management.  Are the decisions made by top management communicated to and understood by employees?

      1                                  2                                  3                                  4

      Rarely                    Sometimes                    Most of the time                  Always

Now, add your responses for your total score: _______

How thinking proficient is your organization?

If your score is between 21-28, congratulations!  Your organization is demonstrating proficiency in critical thinking.  Persistence in making it a priority insures you will stay ahead of the pack.

If your score is between 14-20, there’s cause for alarm.  You’re in an organization where critical thinking may be impaired.  But how long can you continue to operate on what appears to be less than full critical thinking proficiency?  Better address this top-priority question right away.

If you score is between 7-13, then it’s unfortunate that you’re in an organization where employees park their brains at the gate, which is why problems keep hanging around and decisions aren’t getting the intended results.  Unless you move swiftly and radically to energize critical thinking capabilities of the whole workforce—prepare to cede your market position to smarter competitors.

* If you would like a copy of this survey, free of charge, contact Jennifer Alter, Kepner-Tregoe, Inc., P.O. Box 704, Princeton, NJ 08542

1-50  51-100  101-150  151-200  201-250  251-300
301-350  351-400  401-450  451-500 501-550  551-600

©2006 Winston J. Brill & Associates. All rights reserved.