Smart Thinking Summary: A Review and Summary for Leaders

Leaders need Smart Thinking

Reading good books makes us smarter. In this Smart Thinking summary, I'll explore the benefits leaders can glean from this book by psychologist Art Markman.

The knowledge of others should give us some missing piece to whatever puzzle we’re working on. Good books offer us new ways of thinking, which in turn, provide solutions to tough problems.

As leaders, we depend on our ability to learn and grow from others to steward our teams through those tough problems.

That desire for better problem solving led me to the book Smart Thinking. As a leader (and someone who strives toward better decision making) I think it will appeal to you, too.

Smart Thinking is in a genre of books that explores how we think --and how we can do it better. Since thought is the cornerstone of everything we do as leaders, it’s a particularly important skill to improve.

Why should you read this?

Leaders get judged their decision making.
The most visionary leaders develop good ideas that benefit the team. Anything you do to supplement your mental toolbox is worthwhile. Smart Thinking offers practical guidance on the things you can do to better your thinking systems –which will help your team thrive.

Thinking about thinking, or metacognition, is a field that is both interesting and approachable. We all think, and we know the way we process our thoughts. Combine that awareness with the research collected by psychologists like Markman, and we can start to find ways to improve this critical aspect of our life.

The resulting benefits to the process by which we decide shows in our strength as leaders.

The magic of Smart Thinking

How does Markman want us to improve the way we think?

His main argument is that good ideas don’t emerge by magic. Good ideas (and good thinking) come from high-quality information and being able to apply that information.

Because of this, he suggests we focus on three areas: having good habits, getting high-quality information, and making sure we apply that knowledge.

So many of the habits that shape how we think are not planned, so the first step is thinking hard about what we do so we can improve.

Habits make the thinker

Habits are an important part of this equation. You depend on habits to save time and make the complex easy. But those habits aren’t formed intentionally, and often, are not what’s best for you. Fortunately, Markman points out that you can be intentional about changing them.

Becoming mindful of what you’re doing, and what might work better, lets you design habits that make smarter thinking possible.

This can seem hard. But it doesn’t have to be if you are clever about shaping these new habits. Consistently addressing your behavior and what triggers it lets you create new habits that get you to where you want to go.

Here are some important points about habit:

  • You need to associate a behavior with the context where you want it to happen
  • You must stop the old habit
  • Replace the old habit with a desirable one (it’s hard to replace something with nothing; it’s much easier to change a habit than break one)

Using high-quality information

There are many things that can make accessing you existing information less likely. You might not remember that you have that high-quality information. Or you might not see how that information is relevant to the problem that you're working on.

But the reality is that you don't have a way to solve your problem, you are missing a piece of the puzzle. Either that information is not coming to your memory, it's hidden and seemingly irrelevant, or you never got it to begin with.

One of the first steps in this process is taking your time as you learn something new. Do you really understand it? Can you explain it?

Repeat it to yourself and summarize the main ideas. Try to translate them in your own words. This helps you capture the knowledge.

Make sure you put this understanding in the context of why you learned it, and what benefit it can have in other areas that interest you. This builds associations that make it easier to track down those thoughts later. Each connection is like a hyperlink in a web page, making it more likely you can find your way back.)

Markman's approach is to increase the high-quality information you have and then make it more likely that you'll be able to find it when you need it. I compared this strategy against my own experience and found it to be a good one.

It is evident that when you have the right idea (even if it may not seem related at first) you are able to use it to make big changes.

Here are some of the arguments Markman makes about capturing more high-quality information:

  • Explain things to yourself –or better yet—to someone else. Doing so helps you solidify the knowledge and identifies any gaps
  • Create summaries of what you know. Find the things you think you will use in the long term and identify them (it will make them more memorable)
  • Slow down and think about your actions (this helps you make new associations that help memory)
  • Structure your understanding around three things: the objects (people/things) involved, the events that happened, and the causal understanding (why things happened)

For leaders, this book gives you ways of taking information within your organizations and using it more effectively solve problems.

Smart Thinking summary: Closing thoughts

These habits let you recognize useful ideas and information you might otherwise miss. Then, you can make sure that you remember that information when you need it. This improves your decision-making.

This is great, because when you improve your decision-making you become a better leader.

If you're interested in reading Smart Thinking, check it out at your local library. If you decide to buy it please consider doing drugs so through this link. It doesn't cost you anything and I get a small commission that helped me run this site.