Facts Don’t Cut It In Business

A recent column in The Wall Street Journal points out that most colleges fail to improve critical-thinking skills. That’s unfortunate. Being able to recite information isn’t really valuable — especially since we can ask Alexa or Siri anything at any time.

It’s more than just being informed and caring. Connecting dots, making assumptions, analyzing data and imagining different outcomes are all necessary for successful executives. It’s good to remember your wedding anniversary, but if you’re a CEO, the formula for the weighted average cost of capital is something you can either ask your CFO for or find on the web.

Some businesses require more creative thought than others, though I believe all benefit from it. If you grew up in a retail environment that corporate tightly controlled — with planograms, menus, meeting cadence, reporting and behaviors all dictated by someone on mahogany row — you may have spent your days in response mode. With enough elbow grease, you maybe did OK — as long as the one big brain at corporate gave you the right instructions.

At some point, however, you needed to be able to innovate, read people more effectively, see patterns and frame issues succinctly.

Some colleges are better at preparing students for the real world by helping them learn critical-thinking skills, and some businesses are too.

From my experience, the No. 1 determining factor is the CEO’s leadership style. Control freaks don’t allow anyone else to think hard because they, of course, have all the answers. They also end up with the weakest teams.

CEOs who are collaborative and vulnerable and have a bag full of soft skills to go with their intellect foster the best learning environments for their people — and end up with the strongest teams!

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