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Aspiring Managers: Learn to Think Past the Sound Bite

Information Overload
We live and work in a fast-paced, media-overload, high-stress world. And while the Internet offers almost limitless viewpoints and data points on pretty much everything you can think of, who's got time to wade through all those gigabytes and terabytes? So, like it or not, we're adapting by basing more and more decisions on sound bites and summaries and less and less on deep analysis.

That's all well and good for your average everyday employee, but for managers and leaders that customers and investors count on to make smart, well-informed decisions, it's not so good. So if your sites are set on moving up the corporate ladder, as opposed to hanging around the ground floor forever, listen up.

Come to think of it, I'm not all that concerned about those who've been around a while. Sure, you're learning to adapt to this brave new world of quick fixes and instant gratification, but you're probably set enough in your ways to avoid succumbing to what I like to call ADD decision-making.

I am concerned, however, with the up-and-comers, mostly Generation Yers, who not only grew up in that environment but whose brains are more or less wired that way. I'm concerned that they're not going to be very effective decision-makers. I'm concerned about their ability to become the managers and leaders of tomorrow.

Now, when I talk about decisions, I'm not talking about the garden variety, like what color background to use in a Powerpoint pitch or when to phase in a new product design. I'm talking about critical management decisions that can affect the success of a product, a key customer relationship, perhaps even the future of a company, not to mention the livelihood and wealth of thousands of employees and shareholders.

Because when you're in the hot seat, you can't be making those kinds of calls by skimming the surface. Sure, a gut feel here and there isn't just okay; it's a gift and a big part of business success. But most critical business decisions do call for in-depth analysis of some sort, and you've got to have a reasonable attention span to pull it off.

In fact, I've often noted that a key attribute of successful executives is their ability to digest large amounts of data from lots of sources and use that to formulate new ideas and make smart decisions that aren't just unique, but oftentimes fly in the face of conventional wisdom. And they don't do that by listening to the short version of the story.

Look at it this way. Have you noticed that lately our views are becoming more and more bifurcated? Left versus right, Wall Street versus Main Street, capitalism is the American way or greed incarnate. Even Stanford researchers - you know, those really smart innovative folks - post right here on BNET about what it means to be a good boss versus a bad boss. What the heck does that even mean?

That sort of sound-bite thinking is all well and good for riling up comments and page views on a blog, selling books, or getting TV ratings. But the more that way of thinking becomes the way you think and behave at work, the more of an ADD decision-maker you become. And if you're up for a management job or promotion against someone who doesn't suffer from that deficiency, you're going to lose.

Image CC 2.0 via Flickr user zipckr