Introspection, A Valuable Intangible Asset!

Michael D. Moberly    January 12, 2015     A blog where attention really span matters!

A managerial resolution for 2015…Should you still be looking for a 2015 resolution, try engaging in more ‘introspection’!

Peering inward…Introspection means taking time to recognize the prudence of, at least periodically, directing ones thoughts inward, that is, to think about our actions, reactions, and responsibilities and how they relate outside our respective circles of professional specializations.

Professionally, I am convinced the managerial responsibility to be introspective is a valuable and positive intangible asset!  That is, a leader or management team’s recognition that introspection is a necessary and quite valuable attribute to possess, and, in the context of this post, a positive, strategic, and personalized intangible asset!

Knowing what you know and what you don’t know…Introspection as characterized by James Drogan, business professor at SUNY’s Maritime College is…

“…knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know, and knowing who knows what you don’t know and  knowing, when things are going really well, you’ve probably missed something”.

For some readers I suspect, the language Professor Drogan used to characterize introspection, may sound eerily reminiscent of former U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s response to a question posed to him during a Pentagon briefing regarding fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which to date, remains frequently characterized as being smug, arrogant, or perhaps somewhat dismissive, at the 30,000 foot altitude anyway, of the increasingly challenging events the U.S. military were experiencing in both countries.

Intangible value of introspection…On a more relevant note, Martin Christopher, Emeritus Professor of Marketing & Logistics at Cranfield’s School of Business (UK) and author of Logistics and Supply Chain Management, states that…

 “introspection is valuable, important, and perhaps even critical to successful business operations”.

I am wholly in agreement with Professor Drogan’s important characterization of introspection as well as the value which Professor Christopher attaches to introspection.

Introspection among colleagues, co-workers, superiors, and decision makers…It’s important to not go astray from my intended premise, which is, effective and consistent introspection by management teams and decision makers is a strategically valuable asset, albeit intangible, which most any organization and their management teams should aspire.

One example, during my 20+ years in academia is that I routinely observed students, both graduate and undergraduate, rapidly review and presumably assess written assignments in a manner similar to their approach to essay exam questions. In both circumstances, I sensed students had a felt need to speedily regurgitate all they assumed they knew about a topic, then leaving it to my interpretation, which I presume they hoped would track their intent.

I am confident many management teams and business decision makers have observed similar behaviors exhibited by colleagues. I am confident such habits, to be kind, have minimal introspective thought processes at work. Through my lens, introspection is absolutely necessary for effective, profitable, and sustainable business operation, particularly in today’s aggressively competitive, predatorial, and global business (transaction) environment.  So, introspection, should it become a respected attribute to a company’s overall management can also be a very positive and valuable intangible asset that favorably contributes to most any decision maker and/or managerial role.

Introspection is not self-doubt…Managerial introspection is not merely an exercise to confirm what one already believes to be true, rather introspection is a tool for self evaluation and review of pending activities or strategies. Introspection can be rooted in one’s desire to identify and assess a particular, usually strategic, path that provide a means to achieve an objective inner assurance, given the ever increasing array of potential variables, that a particular course of action is appropriate and that relevant obligations have been acknowledged.  In other words, introspection encompasses a strong sense of personal self-confidence which allows a manager – decision maker to be intellectually and operationally receptive to…

“knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know, and knowing who knows what you don’t know and  knowing, when things are going really well you’ve probably missed something”

More specifically, Donald Clark raises other relevant issues about managerial introspection  in ‘After Action Review’, as he correlates introspection to learning…

“…what worked, what didn’t work, why it didn’t work,  what one needs to do about it to make it work and work better, and what one should do differently the next time’? 

Introspection is managerial self-confidence…I believe most management team members and business decision makers can practice introspection providing there is an environment in which self-confidence is appreciated and respected not confrontational arrogance  Unfortunately, I am short on examples of business leaders or managers who have successfully crossed the chasm of arrogance to introspection.

But, introspection is not solely about adding individual contributory value to their organization, rather, by extension, making a company more valuable, thus, an intangible asset positive!

What happens when managerial introspection is absent…When the elements of introspection are absent from a company’s routine strategic – tactical deliberative processes, i.e., ‘after action reports’. Through my lens, the absence of managerial – leadership introspection can be significant, particularly when it becomes a precursor for reputation risks to materialize.

Too, my experience suggests that in far too few instances do those in leadership roles recognize introspection to be an important skill set integral to personal, professional, and intellectual growth that will serve them and their company well.

Most readers are adept at projecting potential adverse outcomes for projects and transactions when leaders and managers lack of introspection.  The consequences can be severe, leading to the failure of a new business initiative, transaction, or an entire company.

It’s far from being a secret that people, as well as business managers and leaders possess an innate proclivity for gravitating and endeavoring to replicate tasks – behaviors which resonate as being…

  • relevant to a current challenge or problem, or they sense are
  • strategically necessary, i.e., personally, professionally, to achieve success.

But, through all of this, let us not overlook two things…

  • the economic fact that 80+% of  most company’s value, sources of revenue, and ‘building blocks’ for growth, profitability, and sustainability globally lie in or evolve directly from intangible assets, and
  • a manager or leaders’ desire and ability to be introspective is a respected and valuable intangible asset.

As always, reader comments are welcome!

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