Reflective Urgency: Critical Thinking AND Acting Quickly

Dialectical Enquiry - Dialectics
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Anneke Zwart
Student (University), Netherlands

Reflective Urgency: Critical Thinking AND Acting Quickly

The best way to respond to situations depends. One should avoid:
  • Responding (too) quickly to particular situations bears the risk of overseeing important information that could generate collateral damage(s) throughout the process.
  • Responding (too) slowly diminishes the above mentioned risk. However, in this case you might miss opportunities that need a quick reaction or you might get caught flat-footed.
The concept of 'reflective urgency' refers to the ability to consciously but rapidly reflect to the situation, combining reacting quickly with thinking critically.
Sostrin (2017) developed three different strategies that help you to practice reflective urgency:
  1. IDENTIFY YOUR URGENCY TRAPS: first of all, you need to identify the things that make you act often unconsciously - in a counterproductive way when you're under pressure. Common traps include:
    - Multitasking while you actually are working on something that needs full attention.
    - Saying yes to new projects that will costs so much of energy that wisely having said no would have been a better choice.
    Such traps hinder you to reflect on your decisions and actions, which ultimately lead to counterproductive decision making.
  2. FOCUS ON THE RIGHT PRIORITIES: Another issue within the urgency trap is that, instead of focusing on the work that has the highest priority, one focuses on less important work, because it is more fun or because one is just better in doing it (compare: Time Management. It is important to thoughtfully assess and reflect your work so as to critically choose the highest priorities.
  3. AVOID EXTREME TILTS: As already mentioned, it is often not efficient to act in a way that is too close towards one of the extremes. Try to avoid this by critically evaluating your daily responsibilities and each different situation, and consciously choose the most effective balance of the elements of reflection and urgency.
Consciously taking the above steps will help you to practice reflective urgency. It helps you to quickly take decisions and act upon various situations without sacrificing critical thinking.

Source: Sostrin, J. (2017) "How to Act Quickly without Sacrificing Critical Thinking" Harvard Business Review

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