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Abandon Logic to Help Your Organization Succeed

Srini Pillay
Srini Pillay

Changing your thinking can help you become a better innovator and business strategist.

As a manager, using logic as your only approach in your company might be more limiting than helpful. In fact, economics expert Dr. Rafael Fernández-Guerrero and his colleagues found that the economic, financial and organizational viability of a business plan did not predict success.

Logic plays a dominant role in business strategies, and its value is rarely questioned. However, despite an emphasis on logical and stepwise planning, there are often early disruptions and obstacles that prevent successful execution. Therefore, using logic as a framework behind these strategies is not foolproof.

Although a strategy might seem logical, there are several instances in which a strategy that appears logically sound might be inadequate or backfire. For example, "plain packaging" is a strategy that removes all branding from tobacco products to eliminate the desire to smoke due to positive associations with brands. On the surface, it sounds like this strategy might achieve its goal. But in May 2018, a report from Europe Economics found that it had no impact on the prevalence or consumption of tobacco products in the U.K.

Logic itself does not improve engagement. It might be obvious, but humans need more than clarity to be interested and motivated. By going against the grain and flipping the value of logic in business on its head, managers and their employees can benefit from being less certain.

How to Effectively Abandon Logic

When it comes to securing success with your employees and business plans, logic is not always your best companion. Instead, here are three strategies that abandon logic and, in turn, could improve your management abilities. 

1. Teach possibility thinking

Many business managers believe that focus groups and data on customer needs should direct product creation, campaigns and marketing projects. However, this is not an approach that all leaders endorse.

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is the world’s largest luxury goods company with revenues of nearly $58 billion in 2017 (a 13-percent growth from the previous year). One of the company’s key features is its innovation mandate that highlights that 15 percent of its business is based on new products. According to CEO Bernard Arnault, innovators at the company are given free rein. And company leaders listen to focus groups with one ear only because customers might not actually know what they want, and if a trend catches on, customers can quickly change their minds.

In Arnault’s innovation process, data from customer needs is not king. Rather, innovation is about considering and aligning input from all stakeholders from the customers to the creators.

To enhance innovation practices, teach your employees “possibility thinking” – the art of exploration. For example, you could ask, “How would we make this happen?” rather than, “Is this possible?"

As a manager, you can accomplish this with your teams by scheduling time for employees to assess their own possibility index. This strategy is helpful for employees and managers who identify with the following limiting sense-of-possibility factors: burnout, feeling lost, a negative mindset, depression, anxiety and difficulty imagining, among others.

By assessing which of the above factors is most prevalent in an employee's life, you can begin to understand what might be locking his or her sense of possibility. In doing so, you can help employees understand their personal blocks and then guide them to shift from self-esteem maintenance to self-esteem optimization.

2. Encourage the act of envisioning goals

While it might make sense to assume that consumers can envision what they want, they often can’t. This is why market research has a role in product development and why smart innovators and managers prioritize envisioning from the start.

Your company’s vision and data must work together. When you draw deeply from your own vision, outside data can be used to test your vision and eventually implement it. But in the genesis of the vision, a more organic and artistic approach might be necessary.

Innovators can be taught how to build visions biologically by simply imagining their success. For example, when envisioning, you can build confidence through images of winning or imagining yourself relaxed or energized. However, only two types of imagery build confidence: coming from behind (how to overcome prior adversity) and visualizing around your weak spots (public speaking).

Encourage employees to take five to 15 minutes to envision their future goals, especially focusing on these confidence-building images. Although this doesn’t take much logic, visualizing what is ahead can bring new light to your teams and workflows. If employees struggle with this, ask them to find an image that relates to a goal. Then, instruct them to close their eyes and try to remember the image. Next, ask them to insert themselves into this picture. This can help them strengthen their envisioning skills, and after a little tweaking, they can change the image to suit their needs.

If they have trouble envisioning effectively, they should try to be mindful first. Ask employees to complete a mindfulness exercise such as focusing on their breathing and ignoring mental chatter. A recent study found that mindful activities such as yoga and meditation have increased in the U.S. This is great news for the workplace because mindfulness has been shown to improve employee well-being and productivity. 

3. Prioritize the need to unfocus

While capitalizing on growing online retailers, the CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, offered to partner with Blockbuster. Being logical, Blockbuster did not believe it was in the same online retailer business. Afterward, Netflix found impressive growth, while Blockbuster was bankrupt by 2010.

Lesson learned: even when what you are doing appears to have no logical connection to a potential partner, look for unusual connections, or at least examine how these through lines can enhance both businesses.

In my book "Tinker Dabble Doodle Try," I explain why learning to develop the “unfocus” mindset is a key to achieving success. Learning to unfocus to see future opportunities can be as simple as building 15-minute periods into your day to take your mind off of tasks, perhaps by walking outside or even daydreaming.

As a manager, you can start with your own unfocusing strategy session by writing down how and why too much focus can exhaust your brain, make you less compassionate, restrict your understanding of the surrounding business context, prevent you from seeing upcoming trends and weaken your ability to make connections.

After determining your unfocus needs, make a commitment to in-office applications. For example, some companies decide to install napping pods, while others add doodle boards to their offices.

Learning how to build mindsets that abandon logic is key to innovation, new product development and even potential mergers. By understanding when and how to build non-logical mindsets into a daily routine and a business strategy, managers can help their businesses grow in surprising and counterintuitive ways.

Image Credit: EtiAmmos/Shutterstock
Srini Pillay
Srini Pillay Member
Srini Pillay, M.D., is the CEO of NeuroBusiness Group and the award-winning author of numerous books, including “Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind,” “Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear,” and “Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders.” He also serves as an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and teaches in the Executive Education Program at Harvard Business School.