by Kirk White, Yusen Logistics (Americas) Inc.
Last time we introduced the concept of Think Traps – preconceived notions you bring to the table when brainstorming a solution to a problem. We talked about Confirmation Bias (you look for evidence that supports what you already think and discard anything that doesn't) and the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy (you find "evidence" by creating patterns in data that agree with your hypothesis and ignore patterns that do not support).
Today we're going to examine two other Think Traps – ones that lay dormant in the brainstorming stage and wait to show up until you're trying to conclude. This is a situation that often occurs AFTER the data has been collected, the problem has been analyzed, the root cause has been identified, and the team is at the precipice of taking action to solve the problem. This moment can also be referred to as Debate Club…as in…the first rule of Debate Club: you do not talk about Debate Club. As you go through your potential solutions, here are two big ol' fashioned Think Traps to be aware of and hopefully avoid:
Politicians are often fond of this ol' chestnut! If we let this happen, pretty soon this, this, and this, and this, and this, and this will happen, and it'll be anarchy and ruin everything, so we'd better not even try. If we upgrade our scanning devices to make it easier to enter SKU numbers and print labels, they may not be compatible with our computers, and then we may have to upgrade our cell phones as well to match the operating systems of our new computers, and if we upgrade our cell phones, many come with apps that let people watch movies and these movies cost money, and pretty soon this will all lead to our staff just sitting around watching movies all day on our dime! Okay…that was a ridiculous example, but hopefully the theory is clear. This is a dangerous mindset as it appeals to our "worst case scenario" lizard brain thinking and can definitely SEEM logical when you're in the fray of brainstorming…because it FEELS like you are doing proper due diligence. But the problem is that it is simply not fact based and very often subscribes to the "Oh, if we can't do everything we should do nothing" mentality. A good way to stave the effects of slippery slope is to hold firm to your data and your logic. If a potential problem that could arise with a new solution comes up, take a moment and fully explore it. Do some research. Has this similar situation occurred before with other companies?
Meaning "to the person," Ad Hominem arguments are a variation on shooting the messenger. It's attacking the person presenting the idea instead of the idea itself. Usually it's a sign of a weak counter argument or even an indicator of insufficient data on both sides, but it could also be a business culture issue ala "Oh, YOU are Operations and this is an IT problem, so you couldn't possibly understand!" Full disclosure, it could technically also be a personality conflict issue (I HATE Hanrahahn so I'm not ever going to use his ideas), but certainly none of that is present in YOUR gembas, right? It's a powerful deterrent to debate as nailing someone's credibility is quite effective at getting their ideas disregarded. A good workaround is to stage (not literal) boxing matches with each solution up for debate. Make and announce the rule of "We let the idea live or die on its own merit."
We'll explore a few more of these next time to hopefully help you avoid pitfalls as you journey towards conclusion. Until then remember, thinking is the best way to avoid Think Traps!
McRaney, David. You are not so smart: why you have too many friends on Facebook, why your memory is mostly fiction, and 46 other ways youre deluding yourself. Gotham Books, 2012.
Chartrand, Judy, et al. Now You're Thinking!: Change Your Thinking... Transform Your Life. Pearson FT Press, 2014
Kirk White has worked in every division of Yusen Logistics. After a brief stint in Transportation, he transferred to Corporate, where he coordinated Yusen's Employee Empowered Kaizen system and served as a Specialist for the Business Process Re-engineering group, after which he moved to the Warehouse division to serve as the East Coast Quality Manger before ultimately joining the International division, where he hopes to use his Quality knowledge base to prove an asset to OCM.
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