How Top Leaders Successfully Navigate Change (Part II): Putting it Into Practice


The ability to learn means you can take on and use new information, but how do you put it into practice?  

There are three key cognitive abilities - beyond basic IQ - that senior executives rely on to master rapid change: 

  1. Analytical, cause-and-effect thinking for the long haul. Most high-ranking leadership roles require analytical thinking, but we find the best senior leaders can follow a logic chain out much further than the matter at hand; even years ahead. 

  2. Conceptualizing. Crafting a concept or vision that enables others to act with clarity despite complexity is a major advantage. This capability first emerges among middle managers but reaches strategic levels in senior executives making sense of a global, evolving market. The very best can make you say, “why didn’t I think of that?” 

  3. Lateral, creative thinking. Contrary to what people think, looking for alternatives and possibilities instead of converging on a reasonable answer is a game-changer. This isn’t just a bolt from the blue; you can teach people to maximize the natural creative ability of the human animal. 

The combination can far exceed than the sum of the parts, e.g.: exploring broad options (#3), following each through to conclusion (#1), and prioritizing and organizing the best solution for the most crucial problem (#2). Brought together, these power strategic thinking. 

Business hones analytical thinking from the beginning; conceptual thinking sifts out those who can prioritize as managers from those who get lost in complicated business situations. Lateral thinking is both less emphasized and most readily developed, since everyone is creative, and greatly increases innovation. We’ve put executives in safe places to encourage intellectual exploration and ran them through exercises with diverse people to promote creative, lateral thinking through comparison and contrast with others’ experiences and ideas.  To see what we’ve done already, go here.


Wai, Jonathan (2013): Investigating America's elite: Cognitive ability, education, and sex differences. Intelligence 41 (2013) 203–211.