Ever hear the advertising tag line, “Are you a doctor?” “No, but I slept at a Holiday Inn Express.” It’s funny and yet it leaves you with an uneasy feeling. A complete stranger jumps in and provides heroic medical assistance, but knows absolutely nothing about medicine. This person attributes his incredible abilities to provide care to simply being well rested. Isn’t this all that’s ever needed to solve a problem? A good night’s sleep?
This sounds ridiculous, but in reality, all of us demonstrate this kind of thinking and behavior more than we should. We jump to a conclusion without understanding what’s really going on, when we really don’t know the best way to proceed. How often do you witness this in your organization? Someone sees a problem and is ready to expend resources on a proposed solution to a process they actually don’t understand? There is an impression of a problem, a gut feel about the cause, and there is what we believe to be a solution, but if you dig deeper, you see that no one has really grasped the situation.
In the book Thinking Fast and Slow — a dense, but great read — Daniel Kahneman explains how it’s in our nature to jump to conclusions based on what we know NOW, usually skipping the hard work of critical thinking. This opens us up to all sorts of hidden and misleading biases.
In working with companies and individuals, I have seen how the proper use of the A3 guards against these biases. A3 thinking makes stakeholders stop, think, understand, and discuss. If the current process isn’t well understood, the A3 makes this apparent, too. So next time you come upon a problem in your organization, or are coaching someone through an A3, make sure you and your team members truly understand the current process well before moving on to analysis or countermeasures.
Sleep is good, but it’s not that good.