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2014 – A New Year: A New Approach

Wednesday 22nd Jan 2014 - Kate Hodkinson

As someone who reads quite a lot of books about management in theory and in practice, I find that it is quite rare that I read something that makes me really question what I do, how I think and the decisions I make.

I often read about managers and their experiences which tells me a lot about what they have achieved but only sometimes describes how they actually did it. My interest in Neuro Linguistic Programming has led me to focus on modelling excellent performance or behaviour which is a fantastic way of developing skills. I have always been interested in a slightly deeper part of this modelling process – understanding how great people think and how they make their decisions.

I came across a book last year “The Art of Thinking Clearly “ by Rolf Dobelli, which gave me a real insight into thinking as a skill and something that we can get wrong – mainly because we use faulty logic as the basis of our decisions.

Lack of pirates causes global warming

When we want to we see, and can often statistically prove, links that we want and ignore those that don’t suit our perception, expectation or way of thinking.

You might be familiar with the theory, using basically accurate information, that the increasing global temperature is caused by the reducing pirate population.

“You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature.”

If we don’t look at information in the right way, and don’t use the decision making process effectively, we can come to the wrong conclusion and course of action.  If we used the above information without more critical thinking – the obvious way to reduce global temperature increase would be to develop more pirates!

Faulty thinking can often lead us to make poor decisions – an aspect of this cited in the book is “availability bias”. Our pre disposition towards using information that we have quickly and easily available to us – if  something is repeated often enough it tends to get stored at the forefront of our minds and then used more frequently. Information close to us often has a bigger impact than more difficult to get but more relevant information. How many times do you hear people say:

“Smoking can’t be all that bad for you. My uncle Albert smoked 30 Woodbines a day and he lived to be 98”
We need to counter this type of thinking by introducing challenge into our life – make sure we interact with people who don’t or won’t agree with us as this can help us to overcome this problem.

Poor thinking and decision making often comes to the fore when we are faced with situations and challenges that are daunting, difficult and situations that we have not faced before. And there will be a lot of these in the coming year for general practice managers. So, how should we prepare to deal with this?

  • Keep defined objectives in mind – always know what you are trying to achieve or at least what is important in the outcomes
  • Collect relevant information – don’t get caught up with just available information. Actively seek out people who can offer an alternative view
  • Remember the difference between options and alternatives. An alternative is, literally, one of two courses open to you. We often jump very quickly to the “either-or” mental position. There may be many other options if we push our self to explore them
  • Use clear decision making criteria based upon what is important to the business or service. Understand the consequences in each possible course of action
  • Recognise the point of no return in every decision and make sure the majority of your thinking is carried out before this point.

There is a risk in every new course of action that we take; equally there is a risk is taking no action. Effective managers make and take decisions all the time. What often makes the difference is what they learn from every situation.

“Make friends with failure” is a good way of making sure that we learn as much from situations that don’t turn out the way we wanted them to – as those that do. Make 2014 the year you start thinking better!

Thornfields and First Practice Management will continue to support GP practices and managers in 2014 with frequently updated advice, support and resources and new courses to provide managers with the key skills that they will need to ensure the continued success of their business.


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