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Thinking differently (and more effectively) is the key to success in everything you do. When you buy a piece of equipment with which you are unfamiliar, what do you usually get with it? An “operations manual” to tell you how best to use it. Smart Leaders 2022 is the definitive instructional manual for your brain, our most important but least understood organ.

Edward de Bono said we are born with intelligence but we must be taught how to think. Your brain determines how you think, feel and behave. If you do not know how it actually works, you will stumble lame to the end of your days. And those who have mastered only one way of thinking, as the result of a specific scholarly discipline or profession (like accounting, engineering or medicine), are particularly vulnerable to the ambiguities and volatility of incessant, often inexplicable change.

Organizations live or die on their leaders’ ability to solve problems. Minimally, they are severely crippled when their leaders succumb to delusional thinking. This happens when leaders think the problem isn’t them. So they resist the efforts of those who try to tell them what it really is. The evidence of this type of leadership today is everywhere and unassailable.

To lead in an increasingly complex, uncertain, disruptive business environment, you must develop and frequently rely on your intuitive capabilities as a decision maker, risk-taker and innovator. You must be plugged into the future and know how to reframe old-paradigm strategies into new-wold solutions. The answers to yesterday’s problems are no longer inadequate, they’re also counter-productive.

Whether discovering hidden possibilities, dealing with unpredictable events, conceiving brilliant ideas or solving complicated problems, creative thinking is neither a gift nor a consequence of magical inspiration. It’s a learnable skill. Unfortunately, it’s one we weren’t taught in school. If you were too creative by even a half, you were often shamed or punished. When you sensed you failed, you lost a part of your natural genius.

Each of us has an internalized model of how the world works. It’s the sum of our accumulated theories and it determines not only what we see but what decisions we make. Our cognitive biases, in particular, are an intellectual “disease” that weakens the immune system of the ability to think critically and creatively. If your mental model is inflexible, if you can only think on one cylinder, then you make decisions in the same way with the same results. As some say, if you only have a hammer as a tool, then every problem looks like a nail.

In the alternative, if you possess a toolbox of different approaches for filtering and framing your experiences, you can choose the best tool for the job and become more effective in its execution. To achieve this proficiency, you must cross-train your brain to make it more open, less categorical and more reflexive. The smartest leaders are those who have the biggest toolbox and the best tools for solving their problems.

The purpose of this one-of-a-kind leadership program, which has evolved over the course of five decades of research and dedicated practice, is to give you the principles, tools and insights for changing the way you think (and thus also the organization you lead). Brains are important things to have but they are even better when you know how to use them. And neuroscience provides us with a window into how best to accomplish that.

We are shaped every day by irrelevant stimuli, subliminal information and internal forces we don’t know a thing about. Our capacity for reasoning obstructs our ability to do difficult, brave and creative things. This only happens when we know how to get out of our box and accept who we are. Extraordinary leaders are just ordinary people who know how to think differently.

Warning: This program has changed lives. It is usually offered once a year, has a limited enrollment and sells out early.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND

This program is aimed primarily at those in positions of executive responsibility. Its premise is that, no matter what your starting point, you can always get better. And the most significant competitive advantage you will ever possess is the ability to think on all cylinders. Your destiny lies not in what you know, but rather in what you do with what you know. How you think determines who you are and what you can become. And know this – what you will be responsible for tomorrow will be very different from what you are doing today. 

WHAT ATTENDEES HAVE SAID ABOUT THEIR LEARNING EXPERIENCE AT SMART LEADERS 

  • It forced me to better understand who I am and where I have weaknesses in my thinking. I feel far more confident in trying new techniques with my staff/company to generate creative solutions that resolve a number of current problems. My new understanding of frames of reference will force me to better understand others’ points of view and better appreciate their input rather than being so judgmental based on my own frame of reference.
  • It provided me with a framework to approach tough problems and the tools to work on same that will enhance my productivity and effectiveness. It also renewed my desire to invest in continuous learning.
  • You provided me with the tools to employ when I hit “the wall.” 
  • I obtained the thinking tools needed to instill a culture of innovation within the organizations I lead. I gained insights into my blind spots, biases and in-the-box thinking – a humbling experience. One recurring theme for me is take the time to focus on what is truly important.
  • It forced me to think about thinking; to think about what I want, where I want to be and how I am going to get there (both professionally and personally); about what I will do when I do get there and even about what I will do if I don’t get there.
  • I feel energized and invigorated and ready to try a few new ideas. I now recognize the importance of pushing one’s self to achieve new heights. I enjoyed the opportunity to hear and benefit from the wisdom you have learned – distilled from your vast experiences.
  • It challenged my belief in myself. You get to think over time that your direction and way of working is “the way forward.” This course makes you reflect on inner confidence, then provides a way to re-direct that confidence in a more constructive and productive manner.
  • The pre-course work was almost as valuable as the course itself  because it forced me to answer some very important questions about my work and family/life issues. You gave me a better understanding and many tools to look at these problems differently.
  • It opened my mind to new ideas and approaches to use with people in my work. I am now more aware of the flaws in my thinking and can better see the issues that hold me back personally and professionally. I now see new opportunities before me where previously I only saw closed doors.
  • The extreme value I derived from this course goes beyond leadership – it will affect how I observe, listen, analyze and react with my peers. I came to learn how to “think differently.” Not only was that objective fully satisfied but it went beyond by showing me how to see different colours and shapes in the box. Highly enjoyable. (The only way to improve this course is to make it longer.)
  • You showed me the value of allowing myself to change my point of view, take the time to explore possibilities, to pause … and ask questions. You reminded me that it is better to allow others to solve problems than to provide them with the answers.
  • It opened my eyes to some preconditioned behaviours I need to address that have affected my decision making and how I view the world. It also confirmed some things I suspected about myself which are positive and that I can build upon.
  • I now better understand how much potential I have just by better using my brain. I especially enjoyed your holistic approach (including health, sleep and nutrition). I now better understand why people think so differently and I have a rich resource to draw from.
  • I was a captive of my analytical approach to solving problems. I rarely sought out the questions that would change that frame. While also humbling, this course has made me a better leader simply because my ability to ask questions and actually listen has forever changed.
  • You’ve given me the tools to solve problems, help others solve their problems, a process for introducing innovation to our centre, ideas about how to solve my personal issues and a list of great reference materials. Great course – I enjoyed every minute of it. 

THE CURRICULUM

This program commences on Monday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. sharp and concludes on Thursday at 3:00 p.m. Evening activities include a competitive team assignment and opportunities for networking and attitude adjustment. The team task is to invent a new business concept and take it from conception through acceptance to feasible implementation. Daily sessions run from 8:30 a.m. until almost 6:00 p.m. The format is practical and highly interactive. You are encouraged to bring your personal, professional and organizational problems with you for resolution. Attendees are expected to complete a number of tasks contained in a Pre-Course Workbook prior to their arrival.

The following is an outline of session topics:

Introductions, Objectives, Methods, Caveats, Purpose and Personal Needs Assessment

Why we need Smart Leaders. What current science tells us about our thinking and how it influences leadership. What impairs an accountant’s ability to learn. What this program will tell you about yourself.

The Mind and True Genius of a Smart Leader
The critical leadership competency and challenge today. What is a Smart Leader? What forces that will shape your future and why? Five minds for the future. The downside of disciplined thinking. Becoming a synthesizer. The creative mind. Linear vs. lateral thinking. The SL thesis. The mindset of a Smart Leader.

A Framework for Innovation: From Origin to Execution
How tough is it to be an innovator? What exactly is innovation? The uncomfortable truths and the essential problem. The process of innovation. Finding real problems. Why most business ideas / proposals fail. Structuring the proposal and gaining acceptance: The art of the pitch – getting your point across in 60 seconds. The team competition: creating and selling a new business concept.

Thinking Styles: As We Think So Shall We Become
What is thinking? Why everyone thinks differently? The fallacy and truths of analytical thinking. The difference between analytical and creative thinking. Probabilistic thinking. Head vs. gut: Understanding our internal conflict and the consequences. How we became so analytical in our thinking orientation. What we don’t know about solving real-life problems.

Cognitive Tendencies That Lead to Really Bad Decisions
Mind traps, cognitive baises and delusional thinking. The difference between behaviours and blind spots. The mother of all biases and how it impacts decision making. Leadership ascendancy: Where are you? Motivated reasoning. The addiction of knowing. How reliable is your memory? The bias that will destroy you as a leader. How to counter your bubble knowledge. Attributes of transformational thinkers: Who are the truly creative ones? Defining “the box.”

Neurology: Imagination, Intelligence, Intuition and Insight
Understanding the hardware. The skinny on neurons. What the brain is capable of doing. Neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. The brain at middle age. The brain’s navigation system. What intelligence really is and how you stack up. The relationship between intelligence and creativity. Why most brilliant business decisions are intuitive. The power of creative dreaming. Finding and releasing your inner genius. What smart leaders know about workplace neurobiology that others don’t.

Barriers and Constraints to Enhancing Creativity and Innovation
The primary reasons we fail. Aggregation of marginal gains. Defining your small-cage habits. What switches off creative thinking faster than anything else. The neurology and antidotes for fear. Understanding risk and enhancing risk intelligence. Addressing the biggest impediment to creativity. The relentless but unproductive pursuit of information. Where research fits in the creative process. The two sides of judgement. A simple but effective way of solving any problem – what we were never taught to do.

Fostering Workplace Innovation: The Practical Realities and Critical Necessities
What neds to be addressed first? Rooting out dogma and overcoming groupthink. The power of groups. The innovation premium. Auditing organizational DNA. Types of innovation. Reconciling paradoxes: Efficiency vs. creativity. Making your organization smarter: Essential principles, rules and tactics. How to evaluate and sell your ideas. Intelligent failure. The easiest, simplest and fastest way to get there.

Group and Individual Thinking Tools, Techniques and Methods
Attention management and reframing existing paradigms. Brainstorming: Flaws, fixes and alternatives. Nominal grouping technique. Forced relationships. Synectics. Morphology. Six thinking hats. Sharing and mass collaboration. Smart listening, reflection and writing. Bio-heuristics: Changing the frame. Doodling. Reverse PoV. CoRT thinking tools. Future forecasting. Visual thinking: Brain mapping and strategy maps.

Competing for the Future: Winning over Demanding, Savvy Customers
Discovering, defining, developing and delivering a new business concept, product or service. The pitch – where (and how) “the rubber hits the road.” Assessing presentations for inventiveness, marketability, return on investment, impact, clarity and connection. Lessons learned: Feedback on dos and don’ts.

Unleashing Genius: Personal Liberation and Transformation
Does creativity have an age limit? How places and spaces affect how you think. Nourishing brain health and reducing the risk of cognitive impairment as you age: What to know and what to ignore. Increasing memory and reducing stress. The power of sleep and levels of consciousness. How long will you live and will you have sufficient cognitive reserve? Investment planning: Perfecting your own Smart Leader recipe. What constitutes genius: What smart leaders know that others don’t.

This program will be offered once in 2019. Check out Dates and Places. It is open to the general public.

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