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Thinking Below the Line

Sometimes we refer to people and their decisions as being consequence-minded or situation-minded, depending on where, in our model, their focus is when they make decisions. When decisions are based on the situation, that's situation-based thinking (in Figure 2, that's thinking "above the line"). We call the ability to make decisions based on the desired consequences consequence-based thinking (or, if you look at the model in Figure 3, thinking "below the line").

Figure 2Figure 2 Living above the line.


Figure 3Figure 3 Living below the line.

How do you know that you're thinking above the line (focused on the situation) when you make your decisions? One of the indicators is that you find yourself justifying your action or decision based on the situation. You might say, "I did that because..." and then offer a description of the situation, designed to justify your response to the situation.

Another indicator is your need to show that what you did was "right." We call this the right/wrong trap, where you forfeit the desired consequences for the privilege of being "right." We never have to defend our actions if the consequences are superb, but when the consequences are less than what we had hoped or don't justify our actions, we fall into the right/wrong trap and feel the need to show how "right" our decisions were given the situation.

Conversely, when you're making decisions from a consequence-based mindset (thinking below the line) you tend to feel no need to defend your decisions because you recognize that they're moving you toward the desired consequence.

When applying the model to groups of people who work together, there's less concern about who has the right answers or who made the right decisions if the focus becomes decisions that bring us closer to the desired consequence. Workgroups who become consequence-minded don't care or focus on whose decisions are right and whose are wrong because they recognize that sometimes the next idea or decision is necessary to lead to the next and the next, until ultimately the desired consequence is achieved. Each idea is not measured by whether it's right or wrong; instead, each idea is used as a catalyst or springboard to the next idea. As a result, every idea is valued.

Figure 4Figure 4 Living above and below the line.

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