We’re looking at the fifth ability in this strategic thinking week: to be non-judgmental.

The best thoughts and ideas do not come to their full existence by the first pass you make over them. The same thing happens when someone is sharing an idea with you, perhaps in a session specially dedicated to sharing ideas.

It is near to impossible to be completely objective. Basically, this is what mindfulness is: non-judgmental awareness to the present moment. And there are monks that practice this all their life: it is super hard. Any experience we have is colored by our internal judging system in a split second. Mindfulness is about being aware that this happens so you can step back for a fresh perspective.

This might become a bit “soft”, but one way to detect if you have a high chance of being judgmental is when you feel really strongly about what is happening, when you experience strong emotions. Essentially, when you’re focussing on getting the best ideas to the surface, you should be observing instead of judging. Another red flag: your very next sentence starting with “I think” or “Yes, but”.

If you master this ability, you’ll be focussing on helping your peer further form his or her idea by asking clarifying questions. There’s always plenty of time to be critical and to test the ideas after this phase.

Another important aspect of this ability, is that you grow the skill to be non-judgmental to your own thoughts. We live in our own paradigms, things we think because we always think them and believe in them. If you want to think on a strategic level, you need be able to basically “pause” your normal thinking to allow all directions of ideas and solutions. Again, there will be plenty of time to be critical and dismiss your crazy stuff later on.

Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at the thing that comes after this: the ability to be hypercritical.