CAPS the way forward, when dealing with strategic complexity, through critical thinking…

22 Oct

Have you ever wondered why some people are better than others at solving certain (complex) problems and making good decisions? Thereby leading the pack?

The answer seems obvious: they know more than us, or they have the experience required, they have the better education, the gift of the gab, and my favourite – they are the appointed authority etc.

We seem to find a reason for every situation in life with smart people to stand back, we become inventive with excuses as to why they outperform us, and why we have to be submissive or why we have to adhere to them. It’s called conformity. Society has taught us to conform to the rules; of culture, religion, social beliefs, and structure. All good and well, don’t get me wrong, but they never taught us that our thoughts, our thinking and reason do not belong to the same rules.

Our minds are free agents, or should be. So how smart are you anyway? Some people are smarter than others for sure! But being smart isn’t enough, when we want to find truth, and seek clarity, rationality. The truth is this; we are all “smart” at one thing, but not all things.

People have been conditioned to think with one paradigm only, all their lives, they just stay true to one way of thinking, and they never stop to think about their own thoughts, or way of thinking, when they do this thing called thinking so well.

Unstructured and un-focused thinking alone does not solve any problem; it just creates more of same – fact. It tends to latch on, and grab everything it sees as relevant and grinds it into the equation. Yes! We can really numb our minds to the point of over analysing thoughts.

Now, people who follow broad rules of thinking like this, tend to stigmatize, by saying and defending this style of thinking with; “We can’t ignore anything”, for them it’s always in the detail, they are in fact playing it too safe with their thinking. There is no real cause and effect involved in that cycle of thoughts.

With strategy thinking and detail is required, but it is neither the final part of a train of thought, nor the entire structure. They have been taking short cuts  Their thinking is time consuming, and gets mixed in emotion, when tested; it actually poisons the mind of all rationality, and any speedy conclusion, to the point of stagnation. It creates scenarios that one has to ponder over, over-and-over. All good, and a required process at the end of thinking, when we have narrowed it down to one simple solution only, then only do we require this detail. So in fact detailed focused people skip to the end to want to find immediate solutions, there is no short-cut…we need focus first.

When the first critical goal of thinking strategic is to unpack concepts, to see their attributes, to add value, and to repack it to seek resolve and create a speedy solution only. Then the type of mind set required in strategic terms is more clinical for such an activity and crucial to its outcome, than what the details is to a plan…

When the goal of strategic thinking is to be critical it can create conflict

The process of thinking critically is simple when we truly understand what it implies; by definition the word – Critically

Literally implies; disapprovingly, unsympathetically, judgmentally, analytically, diagnostically, and acrimoniously.

In other words critically implies; to guarantee, as far as possible success, where one’s beliefs and actions are reconciled and justifiable, and in line with the objectives considered.  In that we have become totally aware of all the negatives, and can reconcile with them, plan beyond them, and nullify their impact, through careful consideration, planning and mitigation.

“People tend to plan clearer, when they fully well know the risks involved, and have to iron them out first. They also work much harder to avoid them, when they are aware of them.”

Critical thinking creates conflict, where untrained minds meet, as we start from the negative, the opposite end (spectrum) of thinking. Reverse Engineering Stephen Covey called it, and then we start from the end vision, and dismantle it to the here and now. We first raise all the reasons why we should not do this, why it won’t be feasible…or work for instance…it is way better to can an idea, that to shut down a whole entire project.

Always begin thinking with the end in mind, therefore start there…

Some ideas are better than others. The machinery for distinguishing them is an essential tool in dealing with this world of chaos, and especially opinions on dealing with the future. And it is precisely this rule, that all things are created twice, first in the mind then in reality. If we keep verbalising our thoughts, we corrupt others, when it is not structured, – PLATO.

The reason being, way too much time, energy and effort gets spent every day, analysing what others are verbalising, and creating, because someone – a smart guy – has a bee in their bonnet and drags people along on their projects, strategies and quests, only to find they never should have done so…

When it comes to critical thinking we find it hard to understand that at one time this capability of the human mind did not exist at all, and had to be deliberately invented. Man became aware of his thinking, and so too its consequences. As we saw how we spend time and waste it daily on plain thinking…and verbalising.

On the path to critical thinking and analysis, we work from the negative to the positive. Good critical thinking examples are clear, precise, and logical.

An example of critical thinking involves 3 important steps.

    • The first step is, nailing the negatives, and recognizing assumptions,
      •  Recognizing assumptions is the capacity to know what a fact is and what merely an opinion is. See if his assumption can be supported by evidence and check if there are no gaps in this logic.
    • the second evaluate arguments, for and against, to see if they hold water
      • Evaluating arguments involve an objective information analysis, wherein barriers such as bias or emotions are tested, then removed before making a conclusion
    • and the third is drawing conclusions, based on several perspectives to form one paradigm with
      • In drawing conclusions, it is necessary that they are logical and based on evidence. By purposefully directing the mind toward what are real and important and not allowing emotions to cloud one’s judgement, then we stay focused on essential elements of information.  It is vital to know the risks involved in any endeavour, situation and in life, for one’s survival. Then we need to deal with risk first, risk is always negative. We have to leave others to figure out the harsh details for themselves, to apprehend their own slice of reality; so we serve them a cold dish of sober reality.

Critical thinkers are almost always branded as negative when their skills are not known; however, there is a clear distinction here to be made. The most distinctive features of the critical thinker’s attitude is their open-mindedness and scepticism.

These characteristics may seem contradictory to their manner, rather than complementary. On the one hand, a critical thinker is expected to consider viewpoints different from his or her own. On the other hand, a critical thinker is expected to recognize which claims do not merit investigation, and which do. The critical thinker is not a conformist, a maverick at best, one who likes to challenge conformist reality.

A critical thinker must find things out for themselves; test them, measure and research them; they would rather approach a situation in a structured manner than to enter into debate, to end with an opinion that is now informed, is their main aim!

Each person comes to the table with different perspectives of thinking.

Doing things, and creating solutions requires one perception, supported by many perspectives, to become critical thinking. This creates disparity.  Then we need a model to engage each other with.

One such model was created by Edward De Brono. For looking into different perspectives.

The six thinking hats

  • The Six Thinking Hats technique of Edward de Brono is a model that can be used for exploring different perspectives towards a complex situation or challenge. Seeing things in various ways is often a good idea in strategy formation or complex decision-making processes. The premise of the method is that the human brain thinks in a number of distinct ways which can be deliberately challenged, and hence planned for use in a structured way allowing one to develop tactics for thinking about particular issues:
  • Information: (White) – considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
  • Emotions (Red) – intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
  • Discernment (Black) – logic applied to identifying reasons to be cautious and conservative
  • Optimistic response (Yellow) – logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony
  • Creativity (Green) – statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes


These are explained below:

  • White Hat:
    With this thinking hat you focus on the data available. Look at the information you have, and see what you can learn from it. Look for gaps in your knowledge, and either try to fill them or take account of them. This is where you analyse past trends, and try to extrapolate from historical data.
  • Red Hat:
    ‘Wearing’ the red hat, you look at problems using intuition, gut reaction, and emotion. Also try to think how other people will react emotionally. Try to understand the responses of people who do not fully know your reasoning.
  • Black Hat:
    Using black hat thinking, look at all the bad points of the decision. Look at it cautiously and defensively. Try to see why it might not work. This is important because it highlights the weak points in a plan. It allows you to eliminate them, alter them, or prepare contingency plans to counter them. Black Hat thinking helps to make your plans ‘tougher’ and more resilient. It can also help you to spot fatal flaws and risks before you embark on a course of action. Black Hat thinking is one of the real benefits of this technique, as many successful people get so used to thinking positively that often they cannot see problems in advance. This leaves them under-prepared for difficulties.
  • Yellow Hat:
    The yellow hat helps you to think positively. It is the optimistic viewpoint that helps you to see all the benefits of the decision and the value in it. Yellow Hat thinking helps you to keep going when everything looks gloomy and difficult.
  • Green Hat:
    The Green Hat stands for creativity. This is where you can develop creative solutions to a problem. It is a freewheeling way of thinking, in which there is little criticism of ideas. A whole range of creativity tools can help you here.
  • Blue Hat:
    The Blue Hat stands for process control. This is the hat worn by people chairing meetings. When running into difficulties because ideas are running dry, they may direct activity into Green Hat thinking. When contingency plans are needed, they will ask for Black Hat thinking, etc.

Personal attributes play a role on thinking

Pride, too, plays a part in hindering us from thinking critically. Most of us want to appear knowledgeable and right, rather than ignorant or wrong, so we don’t object to or challenge claims made by others, especially authorities. We pretend we understand things for fear of appearing foolish.

Or we let false or stupid remarks go by without saying anything because we don’t want to cause a scene. Laziness plays a role in encouraging us to conform and to bow to authority. Combined with the common desire for quick results and simplicity, when lazy.

Then we start to structure our thinking

Edward de Bono’s key concept is that logical, linear and critical thinking has limitations because it is based on argumentation. The traditional critical thinking processes of Plato, Aristotle and Socrates are reductive, designed to eliminate all but the truth. In many of de Bono’s books, he calls for the more important need for creative thinking as a constructive way though that is deliberately designed.

Looking into first settling on one paradigm, before we seek to find the solutions.

A tool to aid in applying the principles of critical thinking with C.A.P.S


Almost everything in life relates to a concept, that has attributes, perceptions and systems. So, it stands to reason that we can dissect and add value if we use such a model to gain a better understanding of complex issues.

Let us use an example here that everyone can relate to; I call it the “Equestrian Unit”.

The scenario: We have been tasked to form an effective equestrian unit; well normally we would look for the obvious first, the horses… wrong apply CAPS and see how it will change your paradigm on reverse engineering.

C.A.P.S; Concept, Attributes, Perception, Systems


  • Its “main purpose” is to; provide an alternative method of policing.
  • Its “default purpose” is to; provide patrols- rural, urban, – and crowd control.
  • Its “integrated purpose”, is to; serve as aforce multiplier at a ratio of 1-10.


  • Physical attributes; dissected; Riders, Horse, Stables, Vehicles, Horseboxes, Equipment, Stable hands, Manger, Vet, Arena, Lunging ring, feed, etc.,
  • Emotional/ symbolic attributes; Power, Beauty and a force to be reckoned with.  
  • Derivation or innate attributes; Speed, power, agility, diversity and height increasing view, interactive with public.
  • Objective and subjective attributes; Arguments for and against. Do the maths.


Starting with;

What is Perceived; about the concept

  • Value – Mission critical or not – Could be if utilised during a Olympic event, or World Cup event
  • Purpose – primary, secondary – Patrol, high visibility, saturation
  • Capacity – All terrain, All weather, Day and night time utilisation
  • Attributes: It’s hard to weigh the merits of buying a horse when you have no idea what you need; horse are expensive to maintain, and keep, and prone to disease, they are also rider specific. What do we need in a horse; power, speed, agility, calm nerves etc? 
  • Enabling – Rider/ food/ shelter/ training/ transportation.
  • DisablingIllness / injury / pregnancy / inoculation / real bad weather 


  • Systems: supporting this structure (equestrian unit) to bring it into effect, or to make it effective in its purpose.
  • Communications – effectiveness; Essential
  • Supplies and logistics – effectiveness – delivery and freshness of food/quality
  • Organisational diagram – if applicable – will it require changes, if so what?
  • Infrastructure – available in support of target. Land, vehicles, buildings, water, electricity, roads, etc.
  • Hierarchy’s influence on target’ or its autonomy. Who will take it? Where will it slot into the organisation?
  • Elements, of culture that could have an effect on the targets effectiveness. Cultural bias against horses, manure, police, riders, or the manner in which they will, or could be utilised.

In summery

There can be drawbacks to being a critical thinker. Some people are offended by being challenged intellectually, or outsmarted. They do not like being questioned – (having their authority questioned) or they can’t tolerate people who disagree with them.

Worldviews and common beliefs shared are opposing to critical thinking.

Such people may be friends or family members, and critical thinking may alienate you from them, as it makes them feel inferior. The more critically you think, the more likely it is that you will change your views on many important issues in a lifetime. These changes may not only cause friction with others; they may cause some discomfort in your own life as you try to adjust to giving up attitudes and beliefs you’ve held since childhood. You might change your religious views, your life orientation even. Others, however, may have a more difficult time of it. You will have to decide for yourself what you value more: being an independent thinker or having the approval of people who do not value independent thinking – intelligence.

“Intelligence . . . is in plentiful supply . . . the scarce commodity is systematic training in critical thinking to use it.” –Carl Sagan

Read more on my blog; or Read the book or Ebook; Read more in my new book Strategic Management, The Radical Revolutionary Strategic Management Matrix for Predators by Reinier Geel, now available at these stores

2 Responses to “CAPS the way forward, when dealing with strategic complexity, through critical thinking…”


  1. Strategy without a solid corner stone, sociology – will become a mental stonewall, built with only bias and denial. « Strategic Management - December 10, 2012

    […] reasoning (relating to the process of acquiring facts, through the use of knowledge by using critical reasoning, intuition, or perception, thus consciously taking into account our pre imposed tendencies to […]

  2. Index of posts on this blog – Strategic Management « Strategic Management - December 11, 2012

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