The Third Opinion

Book Review: The Third Opinion

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership, Book Reviews

Peter Senge said it best: “Today there are two types of leaders in business: those who don’t know everything they need to and those who don’t recognize it . . . The Third Opinion is for everyone who knows that they need help making critical decisions and for those whose friends may need to bring it to their attention.”

Dr. Joni has provided the research that shows why we can benefit from the power of many. Her research showed a surprising level of isolation at the top of our organizations. “While some leaders find a way to build trusted leadership circles that integrate outside insight and have a few confidants, many are on the other end of the spectrum and only experience greater isolation with each move up the leadership ladder.” The background for this research is that the 21st century has drastically changed leadership requirements for our organization. This new paradigm requires new thinking – exponential thinking. It also requires three new habits: the habit of mind, the habit of relationships and the habit of focus.

Exponential thinking comprises six steps:

  1. Understanding our own mental models that guide our thinking,
  2. Developing our ability to discern patterns,
  3. Check and Recheck our hidden assumptions,
  4. Create varied scenarios of the future,
  5. Look for ways to broaden our line of sight, and
  6. Invest in our ability to think in the gray spaces.

“Exponential thinking allows you to see all sides of a complex issue; it’s the process of examining context, looking for interrelationships, exploring assumptions, and asking questions that reveal the full truth and potential of a situation, like a prism revealing the full spectrum of color within white light.” Exponential thinking is best done with others.

Dr. Joni logically explains how these keys – the three habits and exponential thinking – applies to emerging leaders, key leaders and senior leaders in our organizations. Using some tried and true tools to understand our management style, and that of others, we can place ourselves in the organization’s structure. Then, armed with a tool she developed, the Star of Complexity Map, we can discover where our growing edges are and work to fill those gaps with trusted third opinions.

This book has helped me explain the minor explosion of CEO groups forming. Independent thinkers, trusted colleagues join together to work on each others business and even personal issues. Vistage International (formerly The Executive Committee) is one such organization. Membership has grown from 11,000 CEOs worldwide to more than 12,000 members in 15 countries. Why do busy executives take time for such meetings? The answer is they have learned the power of exponential thinking, even if they call it something else. This is a must read book for anyone aspiring to leadership in our organizations.

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