Every human being is at its very core, the total sum of its opinions. And every human being is entitled to reach its own conclusions based on its interpretation of the world. But even if it might seem easy at first, forming a proper opinion or idea about something requires more work than people realize.

Most successful businesses started as nothing more than an idea. But we can be sure that those ideas were not formulated overnight, and a lot of thought went into them, as well as most others thereafter. Leadership demands a lot of decision-making and only through well-formulated opinions can an enterprise hope to ever achieve operational excellence.

Forming an Opinion

Our brains automatically form opinions about everything we see around in an attempt at making sense about the world. But in doing so, a lot of information is given second place or even ignored, in order to categorize people and events as fast as possible. From a pure survival standpoint, “trusting your gut” makes complete sense, but when it comes to mid and long-term decisions, forming a brash opinion and then acting on it can lead to disaster.

American investor, businessman, and philanthropist, Charlie Munger, once said that “I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.”

This statement is easier said than done, however. Based on how our brains are hardwired, we need to put in a lot of hard work and even go against our basic instincts during our idea generation process. We are inclined to trust and believe only in facts and information that confirm our already existing beliefs – in a psychological effect known as confirmation bias or more commonly known as wishful thinking.

But as Charlie Munger said, we need to fight against this desire and try to, not only listen, but also understand the other point of view before we can begin to form our own opinion. We will have to constantly challenge our own beliefs so as to be able to bring logical arguments from both sides of the table. Only after we become the best advocates for the opposing side, can we be in a position to have a sound opinion about a subject.

Applying that Opinion

Proper leadership does not only revolve around taking decisions but also around formulating the ideas behind those decisions. Thoroughly analyzed opinions act as a foundation for any thriving business and are the key to developing a strategy that can outperform the competition, lead to cost reduction and increased revenue. Anything from customer service, manufacturing, internal operations, risk assessment, and all other business practices will stand to benefit from well-formulated impressions.

Instead of doing the work in coming up with an opinion, some opt to simply repeat what others have already done. And even though it may prove successful on occasion, this strategy leaves people exposed to the risks of the unforeseen. Only by developing this skill, can one expect to take on the challenge of achieving operational excellence.

Philip Uglow is the President of Renshi Consulting Group. Renshi lowers clients costs by pulling ideas from your people in the moment, when they are most busy with real work. This is when they learn. This is when they change.