26 April, 2022

Think Fast! The Top 10 Ways to Respond Quickly …yet Insightfully | Video

Intro textRegular viewers know that I often talk about the benefits of wisdom- especially compared to ‘merely’ being smart. But, smart people can think fast and respond effectively. Wisdom can take longer. So, is there a way you can respond quickly and insightfully? I think there is.

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This is learning, so, sit back and enjoy

My 10 Ways to Think Fast… and Insightfully

1. Listening

Avoid the temptation to try and do your thinking while the other person is speaking; it will end badly when you mis-hear what they say and respond inappropriately. 


Do not rush to respond. More haste: less speed. Or, to steal a US Navy Seals quote (via OnlinePMCourses community-member, Lalla Dennes):

‘Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.’

If you use the SCOPE Process, it will enable you to respond effectively.  SCOPE stands for:

  • Stop
  • Clarify
  • Options
  • Proceed
  • Evaluate

3. Stop 

When you have heard the other person out, and listened carefully, stop.  Your confidence with silence will make a good impression and communicate the depth of your thinking. Use the time to relax and breathe deeply.

4. Clarify

Asking clarifying questions not only gives you some time to process what you have heard, it gives you more information.  Clarify facts, distinguish them from opinions and, if you have reason to, challenge shallow evidence and woolly thinking.

5. Options

Think through how you could respond and what the impacts would be. Two choices to make are:

A. Expert or Facilitator?

Is this an area where you have deep expertise and can comment authoritatively, or will you provide supporting process to help reach a conclusion?

B. Knowledge or Opinion?

Do you have a credible answer, or do you need to be clear that you don’t know?  In the absence of sufficient facts or technical knowledge, you may be able to offer an opinion, but be clear about the extent of your confidence.

6. Proceed

Make your point clearly and succinctly. There are a number of simple frameworks that will help you to articulate your answer in a concise yet compelling way.  One is PPP:

  • Position
    State the relevant evidence that establishes the position, as you read it.
  • Pressures
    What are the pressures on the situation and on decision-making that need to be accommodated?
  • Point of View
    State your opinion, recommendation, assessment or decision.

7. Evaluation

You are as likely to be wrong as right.  So be prepared to constantly re-evaluate what you have said. The only way to be right all the time is to change your mind as soon as you learn that you were wrong.

8. Silence

Asking for time to think about something may not seem smart, but it is wise. Better to give a thought-out response than an off-the-cuff gaff. And in taking a moment, you are signaling not just that you are a thinker, but that the other person’s question or problem is complex and important. This will flatter them. They asked for help: a quick answer could signal it was easy and that they were therefore foolish to not know.

9. Defer

You often need to think fast in presentations where you have colleagues to support you. If you get stuck, defer to one of them. Don’t just say ‘over to you”. Flag to your colleague that you need help, but give them thinking time, by saying something like: ‘in a moment I am going to ask Anita for her opinion, but first can I clarify…’ Now Anita is alert to your difficulty and has time to prepare too.

10. Prepare

Thinking fast and responding insightfully does not come by magic, but through hard work and experience. Smart people can offer quick answers that are frequently shallow and even wrong. 

Wisdom demands that you set aside time for reading, thinking, learning, discussing, debating, listening, watching, experiencing… It is this depth that will give you the capacity to rapidly assess a situation, make connections, and deliver meaningful insights.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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