Many of us spend quite a lot of our time in what we call ‘work’. The business day now has a 24/7 clock, so the percentage of our lives spent ‘working’ is even higher than in the 9-5 old model.
Given this colossal airtime, we are rich, and richer, in people with ideas, creativity, perhaps innovation, challenges for sure, good stuff. There is more boiling of ideas than before, more flow, more imagination. Maybe. Of course there is plenty of bad stuff in ‘business’. But let’s focus on the good side. A thriving (work) atmosphere must surely boost your brain, ask for a good use of your neurones, keep your cortex agile and blipping. In other words, in that environment, we can assume that your thinking is the Mother of All Engines. Thinking is the 24/7 fuel for the 24/7 Work-plus-Life.
However, we have outsourced thinking. There is a lot around of pre-digested ideas, pret-a-porter thoughts, copy and paste vehicles, recycled processes, benchmarked systems, managers whose merits are ‘being there, done that’, a library of templates, a universe of models ready to use. And we are heavy users.
Is this a problem? Am I suggesting that we reinvent the wheel every day? Surely not!
The richness of a ready-made, tried and tested, ready meal world is undoubtedly an expression of progress, of sophistication, of wealth of possibilities, of public sharing of ideas and platforms of what works and doesn’t. But the ubiquitous readiness of the answer (to a problem, to a process, to a potential new idea in search of a place) makes original thinking less and less needed. Acquiring the ready-made is not an intrinsic problem. The problem is in the progressive lack of critical thinking about what we acquire (borrow, cut and paste, mimic, use, reuse), the uncritical adoption and automatic legitimization.
The richer we are in the World of Downloadable Ideas, the more we need to use our brains and our critical lenses. But, are we equipped?
A fundamental problem with Education, from Kindergarten to Business School, is the progressive rise of the Reusable Thinking, the Ideas Recycling and the Cut-and-Paste solution. Since the market for Second Hand Thoughts is huge, we don’t have anything to worry about. You can navigate the intercontinental life cycle of business in automatic pilot. And get a bonus.
I know, I know, you need more than automatic pilot. I know. But, particularly in business, there is so much crafted and pre-cooked that the temptation to apply the Universal Template is almost unavoidable. My MBA, moons ago, required zero critical thinking and 100% compliance with the use of templates and frameworks.
Given the richness, I am positive for the future, as long as we put some premium on originality, discovery, resistance to cut and paste thinking and Critical Thinking. There are some business environments that, consciously or not, have understood this and adopted this ethos. And it shows. There are others where all is Second Hand Thinking. Some of that is good, some is fake, some is damaged goods. They became lazy environments. Thinking not required, follow the Standard Operating Procedures.
Is being ‘Lazy at Thinking’ the organizational threat that I am describing? Are we becoming lazier, more prone to reach for the shortcut, becoming progressively more proficient at outsourcing our minds?