Wednesday, 21 November 2012 16:46

Guilty of Junk Thinking? ‘How to Think Better’ at SEMA 2012

Two powerhouse thinkers thought they could change the way we think and so presented “Change the Way You Think at a CORE Level” at SEMA 2012 in Las Vegas.

The purpose of the presentation was to provide a clear understanding of what junk thinking is, show evidence of existence of junk thinking in the market, and provide a clear direction to depart from the junk thinking environment. According to speakers Bill Park and Dr. Byron Bissell, junk thinking is responsible for at least 80% of the problems in one’s business.


“The lack of quality thinking has led to enormous disasters and disappointments. And it’s not only thinking through the solutions to the gnarly problems. More often than not, it’s the painful reality you’re working on the wrong problems,” said Dr. Bissell.

Dr. Bissell is a retired associate professor of business from the University of Arizona and is currently a blogger for mPowerU, a website dedicated to providing insight and information to the auto body collision repair industry. His background includes working as a manager, an educator, scholar, academic administrator, behavioral consultant, psychiatric social worker and child welfare caseworker. He holds a PhD in business and a Master’s degree in psychiatric social work and in public administration.

Bill Park currently trains and consults small to medium sized businesses in the automotive collision repair industry. His passion is to “Add value. Period.” Bill also has founded and operated multiple businesses over the years, ranging from small, 2-3 person entities, to a medium sized 100-employee corporation. Bill has over 20 years experience in all facets of business development, including, but not limited to: green-field and start-ups, process development, venture capital, financial literacy, acquisitions and disposition. He also holds an MBA and previously owned four collision repair locations in Arizona that were sold three years ago to Gerber Collision & Glass.

“The purpose of this presentation is to identify junk thinking, act on it, change it, and improve business thinking,” said Park. In short, junk thinking is “thinking that leads to a train wreck.”

Junk thinking is a major reason why businesses fail. The top 5 reasons a business fails are:
1) lack of experience
2) insufficient capital
3) poor location
4) poor inventory management
5) over-investment in fixed assets

“The commonality here is junk thinking,” Park said.

Junk thinking happens because it’s easier. “Thinking is hard,” Dr. Bissell said. “Good thinking takes effort, discipline, and learning how to have good thinking. Good thinking doesn’t come naturally. Start the journey to good thinking first by admitting to engaging in junk thinking.”

An example of junk thinking, Park said, is that employers will often hire workers based on their work skills, which is only 20% of their total skills—the other 80% being “soft skills”—such as how they get along with people, their work ethic, attitude, presentation. Basic job description skills can be taught, especially for those employers who want their people to follow particular standards. Other examples of junk thinking include crisis management, wishful thinking, biased thinking,  and denial.

Dr. Bissell described how our brain thinks. Our five senses capture data from an external environment and our brain interprets the data and processes it. The brain then identifies what the information means to us and selects the behavior we will engage.

In a nutshell, Bissell and Park said there are two types of thinking. The first is called System 1 and is the type of thinking we do lightning fast, that is automatic and effortless. For example, we automatically stop at a red light. We don’t have to think about it.

System 2 thinking is slower, methodical, deliberate, controlled and ruled-governed. It uses up a lot of energy and it’s a lot of work.  Most of us avoid that type of thinking. To visualize System 2 thinking, think of a turtle working on a Rubik’s Cube.

When an event happens, we take about a nano-second to compartmentalize it. System 1 thinking is, do we pay attention to it, ignore it, deal with it now or later? If it’s later, we move it into System 2, where we give it a great deal of thought later.

In System 2 thinking, we pull information from memories and beliefs. “The reality is, knowledge is based on beliefs,” said Dr. Bissell. System 2 thinking comes into play when we ask ourselves, “Is what I know enough?” If you say yes, then you take action. If you tell yourself no (which we rarely do because it takes strength to admit we don’t know enough), we move on to System 2 thinking and seek more information.

Junk thinking is a result of System 1 thinking when we should be using System 2 thinking. “The trick is to know when to activate System 2 thinking,” said Bissell. “If the cost-benefit ratio of time and energy to use System 2 thinking is positive, then engage it.”

Success in the auto repair industry starts with good System 2 thinking, and tuning up your CORE, Bissell said.

CORE thinking is an acronym for:
Cognition (the way you think)
Organization (how information is stored and retrieved)
Reference (based on your identity, who you think you are)
Energy (mental)

To think better, prepare yourself to make thinking changes. Change the way you think; change what you believe; change your perception of who you are; change how you direct your mental energy. “We seem to have a prime directive inside all of us that says ‘we shall not change,’”  Bissell said. “In order to change, you have to be willing.”

“What we can do better from a business perspective is better understand the real business we are in, which, by the way, is not fixing cars,”said Park. “People feel stuck, they don’t have the control they want. A business has to be under constant experimentation and testing based on sound thinking principles.”

Park asked the audience to speak up and admit to a major mistake they had made based on junk thinking. A shop owner from Hawaii said he made a million dollar expansion to his business without utilizing the knowledge and expertise of others, particularly vendors. The owner didn’t design the expansion properly and ended up changing the shop layout, which cost him time and money.

Assumptions and emotions can get in the way of good thinking. We think we know best. Bissell cautioned that emotion is an important part of decision making but needs to be controlled, not eliminated.

Dr. Bissell pointed out that we need to think about what could go wrong. We need to do due diligence. “You have to be willing to hear what you don’t want to hear,” he said.


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