The world we live in seems to get faster every day – no matter how fast we move, we nevertheless seem to be constantly in need of catching up. Technology keeps us working and communicating, wherever and whenever, while our jobs seem to demand us to stay in touch, 24/7. Long-successful businesses all of a sudden face evolve-or-die scenarios, daily. Shareholders and analysts demand immediate results. We watch, real-time, for up-to-the-second data and analysis. Business is a marathon, as well as a sprint.
And in the advertising business, warp speed is table stakes. What once was given 6 months to complete is now given 2. Expectations of productivity have multiplied 10-fold. And the need to be prepared to react to the slightest market fluctuation keeps us all on the edge of our seats, ready to jump.
But I’m about to say something counter-intuitive (not too surprising, I know) – that in this speed-frenzied context, it’s never been more important to slow down. That’s right, I said SLOW DOWN.
Why? Because this need-for-speed has taken over our bodies and our brains. We shoot first, ask questions later. We react, respond, and do-do-do. We value action over thinking and praise response, no matter what. We develop processes that work on their own, like robotic speed-freaks. But sometimes, we need to press the pause button. We need to stop the presses, the mail-bots, the dashboards. Because, sometimes, we need to think slower – in order to work smarter.
This is exactly what Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman wrote about in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, which suggests there are two distinct systems that dictate how we think and make decisions. One is fast, intuitive and reactive, while the other is slow, deliberate, methodical, and rational. He argues that there are many situations in which we must force ourselves to “think slow”. A Harvard Business School article agreed, saying that “in a world that is more complex and uncertain and ambiguous we should be promoting slow and deliberative thinking.” Good leaders know why you should sometimes think slow. Do you?
Promote real, human contact. This need-for-speed has caused us to resort to e-contacts as the default state. Important programs that once required people physically together in a room working through issues now kick-off with an email. People work alone behind laptops and “hand-off” their responses, like passing the baton. But lots of activities demand more deliberate, in-person activities. And, counter-intuitively, you’ll be amazed to find that your productivity will grow, not plummet, with several humans in a room working on the same project at the same time.
A knee-jerk is still a jerk. Because we are constantly responding to situations and reacting to stimuli, we often develop patterns of response that we enable without thinking. A certain problem calls for a formula solution; a certain metric automatically receives a specific optimization. We become run by rote, not mind.
Identifying these situations is the first step to recovery. Because, no matter how efficient we want to become, we still need a certain level of intentionality – conscious thought and connection to the path we’re actively choosing to solve our problem. Don’t let a knee-jerk be your answer to anything.
Don’t let process run the process. I’m a big believer in developing and leveraging processes as a way to routinize desirable behaviors, as well as to drive efficiency and quality control. But that doesn’t mean process is the be-all and end-all. Ensure that process is utilized with purpose and intent, as well. Don’t let activities happen mindlessly, simply because a process stipulates it to occur. Empower people to stop the assembly line if it doesn’t serve your purposes. Again, don’t let an efficient process drive you to speed to the next step if you’re not sure you’ve completed the last one, or you’re not comfortable with the outcome of the prior phase. Slow it down before speeding back up.
Wait for the cavalry. There are times when you feel the need to respond. You feel under the gun, you’re pressured and out-numbered, and you’re forced to respond defensively with the best you’ve got, under the circumstances. That’s what our always-on world has us believe. But sometimes you just need to slow down – and wait for the reinforcements. Take a pause and let time and your teammates help bail you out – with better information, more expertise and capability, and additional thinking. In fact, a “slow” response that solves your problem is actually more efficient than a fast one that requires multiple follow-ups, revisions and course-corrections.
Sometimes it’s the move you DON’T make. As I mentioned in a prior post, in some situations, the best thing to do is nothing. That is, despite the demanding pace and the emotions and passions we all have, it’s important not to rush to judgment or react impetuously or impulsively. Control your emotions and remove yourself from the heat of the moment. It may be extremely hard to hold back from doing – our restless selves seem to demand action. But, slow down instead. First, seek understanding, before you allow yourself the potential to take action.
These are a number of reasons and situations you’ll be happy you took it slow. Do you have more? Do you disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts and examples.