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Deep Thinking - is this what women are doing better?

There are two types of thinking, Deep Thinking and Shallow Thinking.

Obviously, we need more Deep Thinking and I reckon it's this ability that underpins the evidence that our female national leaders are doing consistently better than their male counterparts.

I don’t think the ability to think deeply is biologically determined. I do believe it can be trained but that women are trained much harder than men in this way of thinking.

 So, let's start with the evidence and then move onto the distinction....

The Evidence

Yale’s MedRxiv studied the effectiveness of the COVID response of male and female leaders across 35 Western countries between. The results were recently published in the Medical Life Journal. Their unequivocal conclusion was that:

  “Countries governed by female leaders experienced much fewer COVID-19 deaths per capita and were more effective and rapid at flattening the epidemic's curve, with lower peaks in daily deaths.”

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Shallow vs. Deep Thinking

It's all a matter of perspective.

Shallow thinking is where you deal with what's in front of you, step by step. It doesn't mean you don't think about and plan for the future, obviously you do, it's just that you're not thinking from the future.
Ultimately, you are referencing everything from the place you are standing right now. From there, you can do 'good', but it is always a good reference to yourself. This can have some deeply nefarious consequences and it ultimately privileges control over flexibility and Hierarchy over Heterarchy (the two organising principals that underpin a focus on outcomes or impacts - both important, just at the right time!).
Deep Thinking is where you think from places other than yourself. Any other place will do!
It's holographic. It looks from as many places as it can.
We all talk about looking from a different perspective - that's why we are increasingly keen on the innovation value of diversity. This is subtly different because it places YOU at the various positions of an alternative perspective rather than let others do the hard lifting for you, you have to be there yourself!
It's not that you don't need others to open doors and show you how to look from that place, it;s that you have to put yourself there and not rely on them to do it for you.
We can no longer afford to have people sitting in their perspective like it is the truth and others have equally valid truths.
No... we, each of us, need to see and BE multiple truths at the same time!
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Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

An example from Urban Planning

A few years ago I helped organise a conference for Urban Planners to help them think about Bushfire Recovery a friend of mine, Edward Blakely (aka, the Recovery Czar of New Orleans) opened the seminar, by declaring that we were planning the wrong kind of city. Thinking from now to the future meant that we were designing cities that worked for middle-aged white men and women in the current environment. Blakely showed us the demographics so we could see that when the infrastructure we were designing was being used it would be primarily serving older Asians and people from non-Anglo-Saxon countries.

These people will be living with very different ecological and economic challenges. Their cultures and how they want to live together are very different from the predominately Anglo-Saxons we are designing cities for. the scale, frequency and impact of natural disasters will be very different etc. etc.
His point - we're not thinking FROM them and only barely OF them.

Why we don't privilege Deep Thinking?

The first reason is that thinking is hard and so we avoid it. Laziness basically. But there are other reasons:

1. We still think that leadership is content-based, something that can be taught like mathematics or how to drive.

Just the other day, an academic client had a break-through moment when he realised that leadership is actually a personal development issue
2. Shallow Thinking can be seen in the moment, but Deep Thinking cannot. Where Shallow thinking lends itself easily to Checklists, Deep Thinking privileges the Experience. To leverage the Trump phenomena, Deep thinking relies on partnerships and relationships, not The Deal. It's the ancient quality vs quantity issue writ large across our whole society

3. The most important barrier to building capacity in the realm of Deep Thinking is that you can only recognise it is missing if you are already doing it!

It's like a professional fencer watching a match vs. a rank amateur. These bouts are often over in seconds. and it almost looks like pure luck one person won and the other lost. The amateur simply can's see what's happening because most of it is in the wrists and the feet, and they're generally not even looking at them because, obviously, it's all about the sword (foil). The amateur simply cannot see the skills, the thousands of hours of practice, the subtle manipulations of body necessary to win a 12-second bout. 
Likewise, when someone is thinking deeply, a person who doesn't;t do that simply can't recognise they are. In fact, it often looked like they're not doing a very good job because the work is largely invisible. the influence they have is in the subtle shits of stance, the twist of a wrist that fundamentally changes where your sword-point ends up. If you don't have the skill, all you see is s flurry and, if it DOES work out, it looks like pure luck .
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I had a Tantrum last week

Sounds childish... it is. The only difference is that I did it in an adult way (long silences, barbed comments basically dragged it out as long as I was allowed... not my most shining moment).
I'll share this with you because, though I often train people in suits and power-suits, the best place to see the difference between Deep and Shallow thinking play-out is in the home (check this piece out about how Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, channels her experience training and ruling a family to win in politics).
During the last few months of COVID lockdown I, like many men (I believe/hope/pray) have discovered a new level of what white, male privilege looks like.

Forced to live for months in a new level of intimacy with our partners and families we're bumping up against the assumptions and privilege we've taken for granted, and that works so well for us... and how much we resist changing it!

A lot of that privilege is founded on not needing to think too deeply!

I won't bore you with the details of the interaction but in essence, I didn't want to own that I should be expected to do half the cleaning in the house.

Why? well, because I run a business and make most of the money and that should count towards my share of effort in the house... don't you think???

“I wish you could hear yourself on loudspeaker” my wife said at one point… “you make the money so you don't have to clean… you know, if I wasn't here to do it for you, you would have to do it all!”

A friend of mine said it beautifully to me the other day:

“My husband is an Executive in a large firm. The first thing he does when he comes home is take the washing out. He also does all the cleaning in the house.

My friends, consider me lucky. I have a good husband. But every day when he does it my thought is, “God, I wish I could do something as mechanical as that and deem it sufficient…”

The truth is that these two COVID lockdowns have shown me that, at home, I think Shallow!
Is that a partnership or is that just outsourcing responsibility?
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Photo by T. Q. on Unsplash

The dawning truth is that my wife ‘holds the space’ for all of these things. I sometimes make the school lunches, but I rarely do the heavy lifting which is thinking about what those lunches should be and making sure, days in advance, that that right kinds of food is available.
I attend parent-teacher nights, but the nitty-gritty of managing the relationship with the teacher (and holding them to account) is not mine. I occasionally buy clothes but I don't think too deeply about whether we have enough of them at any given moment (except mine of course). 
I don’t know the kid's timetables backwards and so organise my work schedule around their needs (unless I'm told to). I rarely lead the organisation of the birthday parties or deal with parent dramas… but I do do the dishes and the gardening and oh, of course, I make money!
In essence, I contribute but I'm not thinking from that place, I don't need to because she is... and it's invariably invisible.
Thinking like that is hard work and, like most humans, I avoid it if I can… and I can because she does it for me.
I could say this has worked for both of us. That a team is all about division of labour. But I’m increasingly seeing that it has never really work for us both, it’s just worked for me.
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Photo by Ales Krivec on Unsplash

Why hasn't this changed?
My wife is an educated, intelligent, strong-willed individual. If it isn't working for her, why doesn't she just change it?

This question is the automatic response from people who can't actually see the Deep Thinking that is being done and the answer is the same for my wife as it is for a low-ranking (or even high-ranking) bureaucrat with a vision.

People who think Deeply are already working really hard!

They are spending mental energy in the most important of ways, but, to put a lighter spin on Gollum's little riddle in Lord of the Rings:

It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.

It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.

Deep Thinking fills all the empty spaces where others aren't doing it.. but the fact is someone is doing it it doesn't come free!
As I have explained previously, and you all know, change comes at a cost, and we're asking the people already spending the most to undertake it!

These are the barriers:

1. You can't make people see what they can't see, especially if they don't really want to;

2. Shallow thinking is embedded (and privileged) in existing systems so,

3. You are generally alone in your efforts, whereas what you are trying to change has enormous implicit agreement and, most importantly

4. Shallow Thinking works for too many people (like me) because we can leave the heavy lifting to others (and they just keep doing it!!)

Back to my little personal example of not wanting to do my share of the cleaning. This has;t changed until now because it's often not worth the effort, or if my tantrum about doing the dishes is any indication… not worth the drama!

Deep Thinking is where the real lifting happens. It is invisible. So often not counted. But it's the part that holds everything together.

Back to Global Female Leaders and an Invitation to YOU
Some female leaders had press interviews for children.
Jacinda Ardern is justly famous for declaring Easter an essential service.
These people are thinking from, really FROM, perspective other than their own... and it's pretty much only the women leaders doing it.
They are thinking from: what must lock-down be like for these kids? What must poverty feel-like for our clients? How must my policy occur to those people (no matter what my intention for it) and why would they apply it? 
Many of you already do this. Obviously we could ALL do better.

My invitation to you is not just that (you would anyway) but to do something even more important:

Hold other people to account for NOT DOING IT.

That's the real game here!
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