As unlikely as it sounds, thinking like crap is a behavioural method that many high-flying business executives and political leaders are being taught, and it’s making a positive difference.
In reality, CRAP is actually an acronym, but its synonym of an unpleasant substance or feeling makes it much easier to remember, suggests Andrew Wittman, founder of the US-based Mental Toughness Training Center.
Discipline and thoroughness are well-ingrained in Mr Wittman, who previously served as a marine before becoming a security guard to some high-profile people, including Hillary Clinton and the Israeli prime minister.
“[People] think their problem is they have communication problems… but really it’s a thinking problem,” he told My Business.
“If you think clearly, you’ll communicate clearly.
“That’s where this mental toughness comes in to teach people how to order their thoughts. So we’re teaching thinking like it’s a physical skill. We call it the ‘golf swing’ of thinking. You know how when you first learn to play golf, there’s stand and body posture and grip and the mechanics of the swing. And if you think about thinking that same way, where you can order your thoughts, then you’re going to order your communication. And there’s going to be less things fall through the cracks.”
To achieve this, said Mr Wittman, it is important to remember the CRAP analogy.
“The C is clarity. So what I want to know is what’s my target? That’s the first step in every thought,” he said.
“Not what I don’t want, but what do I actually want. So think about with the golfer, the target is the hole. So are the sand traps and the water obstacles relevant?
“If you say don’t hit it in the water, where does the ball go? But see, most of us think about what we don’t want. Because we’ve learnt it, honestly. When our moms and dads were teaching us to cross the street, we look both ways. Why? So you don’t get hit. Is that the target? No, the target is to get across the street safely.”
According to Mr Wittman, neuroscientists have found that when someone says “don’t do something”, the brain automatically chops off the word “don’t” and focuses solely on what comes after that.
“I’ll have business owners tell me I don’t want to lose this million-dollar client. So it chops it off and what’s left is “lose the million-dollar ...” he said.
The second step, Mr Wittman said, is closely aligned to clarity, which is relevance. Once you are clear on what you actually want, it will help refine your thoughts into what is relevant and what is superfluous.
“What you don’t want is not relevant. Those are sand traps,” he explained.
Next comes accuracy. This may sound straightforward enough, but most of us are actually muddying the waters when it comes to the accuracy of what we think.
“That is the distinction between fact and truth. Because they’re two different things. When I was in law enforcement, I was a police officer, a cop. And when we’d go to court, what gets entered into evidence is facts. But the witnesses swear to tell the truth. Which one’s more reliable? Facts,” said Mr Wittman.
“And then the [final] thing is precision. Once I figure out this is a truth, move it into the fact column. Can this fact be more exact? So here’s an example that every business owner knows. You get the e-mail from the customer that say: ‘I need this ASAP’. Was it a big ASAP or a little ASAP? Is there a difference?
“So I’m going to ask them ‘when do you need this by?’ Well I need it by Friday, the 11th. Okay, that’s a fact, but that’s a big block of time. When on Friday? So precision, I’ve got to drill down.”
With this four-step process in place, Mr Wittman concluded, business leaders and indeed anyone can be more structured in their thinking and therefore more successful in achieving their desired outcomes.
“Those are the four steps. Think like CRAP: clarity, relevance, accuracy and precision.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.