Asking the seven "So what's?" drives insight on implications of actions we're considering and highlights the consequences of our answers. This prevents or helps us avoid causing future issues
- Good critical thinking processes don't just look at causes, they look at consequences as well. A great tool for thinking through the consequences of an action is the 7 So What's. The 7 So What's force you to go from an early answer to think through all the possible implications and future consequences of your action. Let me offer an example. Let's say we have a situation where we're going to change our incentive and bonus plan.
We say that's the recommendation. Okay, so what? If we change that, what happens? So what? Well, if we need to change it, we don't know how. If we knew how, we would have already changed it. Okay, so what? If we don't know how, what's the implication of that? Well, we need to find someone who does know how to do it. Okay, so what? What are the implications of that? Well, that means I need to start a search for a vice president of compensation.
Okay, so if we start that search, so what? What's the implication of that? Well, I need to de-prioritize other searches for other roles so that I can focus on getting this person in. Okay, well, so what? What happens if we de-prioritize those other recruiting efforts? Well, that means I'm going to have to reduce my search for somebody in supply chain and focus on this VP of compensation. Okay, well, so what? Well, that means I probably need to change my supply chain goals for the year.
This all started with our business plan is broken or our incentive model is broken, and now we're looking at goals for supply chain. If we didn't think this through, we may have caused huge problems for the organization, by making that one change to the incentive plan, without thinking through the consequences. When you're looking at making a recommendation, ask yourself so what, and ask seven times. The lens you should have on that is what is the consequence of this action? What's going to happen to our business? What will happen in the marketplace? What will happen with our associates? What are the reactions we're going to see? If that reaction happens, so what, what happens next? By thinking forward, by thinking about consequences, what you're going to do is be able to see new opportunities, as well as avoid problems you might unknowingly cause.
Take a look at a recommendation you're working on right now. Do you know the consequences? Do you know the real downstream impacts of the change that you're proposing? Have you stopped and thought critically about the implications of your recommendation? Invest that time because it's going to help you avoid future problems that were caused by the recommendation you made.
- Identify how to break down complicated issues into smaller components.
- Determine the definition of an effective problem statement.
- Identify the primary benefit of focusing questions.
- Identify a problem's root causes.
- Apply critical thinking tools to analyze and unpack consequences.
- Recognize how to prepare others to think critically.