It’s Not a Panacea

“Training for Success” with Bill Russell

How many times have you heard someone tell you about the “five steps to… fill in the blank? We are besieged by claims and counter claims of simple solutions to some of life’s most complex issues. So when we read about the Critical Thinking process with five quick steps and six simple tools, how should we view it? Is this just another in the succession of helpful fads that is here today and gone tomorrow?

When people ask what benefits they can expect from Critical Thinking, I often have a hard time responding. It’s not a panacea, but it is a roadmap to a better outcome:


  1. Produces better decisions faster. Groups who use Critical Thinking are better informed, have a better grasp of the bigger picture and can better evaluate the alternatives. It increases our percentage of successful decisions.
  2. Creates a safe-zone which drives creativity. Creativity in decision making? Absolutely— creativity to recognize the full range of alternatives to help meet the customer’s needs. Creativity to find solutions which redefine market expectations. Creativity to see into the future and understand the impact of our actions.
  3. Drives team alignment, collaboration and buy-in. All of these speed implementation and shorten time to market. Team members coalesce around common values and streamline processes to achieve their shared, corporate goal.

As an example, I met with a capture manager, recently. He was on a team that was preparing a response to a request for information (RFI). He said this was an important contract for the company – it was a must win. They didn’t have the details yet, but had a solution prepared. “Do you have any suggestions?”

I suggested the team try the Critical Thinking process. This courageous person walked them through the steps. As a result, they came to a more well-rounded understanding of the issue, discovered many unstated assumptions and uncovered a much better solution for us and the customer. May not be a panacea, but it works if you take the time to do it.

Try it with your team and let me know how it goes.

Recommended Reading: Thinker’s Toolkit: Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving, Morgan

An invaluable resource for any manager or professional, this book offers a collection of proven, practical methods for simplifying any problem and making faster, better decisions every time.


Bill Russell has worked with clients globally from a variety of industries including defense, telecom, banking, manufacturing, automotive, aviation, medical equipment, healthcare, and universities. Through the use of workshops, presentations, and interventions, he strives for quick, collaborative implementations that prioritize actions that yield the fastest and largest payback and encourage multiple cycles of learning. In other words, Bill believes in training for success.