In a Nutshell: Far from being a navel-gazing exercise, thinking about thinking is a critical skill of any executive who needs ideas turned into practical results faster, better, and at less cost.
Thomas Watson commanded his people to THINK
Kevin Maney, in his book, The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr. and the Making of IBM (John Wiley & Sons, May 26, 2003 ), describes Watson as “The first celebrity CEO.” As an example, he points out that the “THINK” slogan Watson promoted as part of the IBM culture soon became embedded in the popular culture of the early 1900’s. Even now, the “THINK” sign continues to pop up in cartoons as an archetypal representation of an executive touting a corporate value. Watson’s THINK slogan perhaps represents one of the first corporate initiatives.
Meta-Thinking is Mega-Important
As intellectual capital increasingly defines the value of corporations, a new sign is in order: “METATHINK”: thinking about thinking and thinking about ideas. Thoughts and ideas are taken for granted and not often vetted for the qualities that determine their durability, longevity and impact. There are few courses in management schools about either thinking or ideas, and executive evaluations rarely refer to these important qualities of ideas.
Idea Risk Management requires Meta-Thinking
The goal of Idea Risk Management is to encourage executives and their teams to think about ideas. In particular, it is useful to understand how it is not enough that an idea is a “good” idea—we have all seen good ideas fall by the wayside, as we have seen bad ideas stay around forever. Rather, Idea Risk Management is about ensuring that ideas have the qualities necessary to ensure they safely endure their entire journey from conception to results.
These qualities–Focus, Shape, Alignment and Engagement– are discussed in my book, Leading Through Ideas—A Practical Framework. You may also check out the four factor assessment on this website that assesses the quality of a specific category of ideas—those that are delivered to organizations through corporate initiatives.