"The Forgotten Cousin of OKR that Could Make it 10x Better: Reopening the Mind and Embracing Cognitive Closure"

Aviral Vaid

Aviral Vaid

Jul 01, 20234 min read

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"The Forgotten Cousin of OKR that Could Make it 10x Better: Reopening the Mind and Embracing Cognitive Closure"

Introduction:

In today's fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape, organizations are constantly searching for effective goal-setting frameworks to drive success. One popular method that has gained traction is OKR (Objectives and Key Results). However, despite its widespread adoption, there is a growing concern that OKR fails to capture the true essence of how individual work relates to the broader goals of the company. In this article, we will explore the challenges with OKR and introduce a concept that could potentially enhance its effectiveness - cognitive closure.

The Limitations of OKR:

One of the primary criticisms of OKR is its inability to establish a clear connection between individual tasks and the overarching objectives of the organization. Employees often find themselves uncertain about how their work contributes to the larger goals, leading to a lack of focus and alignment within the company. This disconnect can be demotivating and hinder productivity, rendering OKR as nothing more than an additional administrative burden.

Understanding Cognitive Closure:

Cognitive closure is the innate human tendency to seek answers and find a resolution to ambiguous situations. It is driven by a desire to eliminate uncertainty and achieve a sense of closure. While this need for closure can be helpful in certain circumstances, it can also hinder creative thinking and innovation. The urgency tendency compels individuals to reach a quick resolution, often sacrificing a thorough understanding of the problem. Similarly, the permanence tendency encourages the maintenance of closure for extended periods, limiting opportunities for fresh insights and alternative perspectives.

Embracing Openness and Uncertainty:

To overcome the limitations of cognitive closure, it is crucial to develop a lower need for closure. This entails embracing open-ended problems and remaining comfortable in situations where answers may not be readily available. By resisting the urge to rush towards closure, individuals can foster a mindset that is more conducive to creative thinking and problem-solving.

One effective approach recommended by Nobel laureate Richard Feynman is to maintain a set of favorite problems that are constantly present in one's mind. By keeping these problems unsolved and actively seeking new solutions, individuals can train themselves to embrace uncertainty and continuously challenge their existing knowledge. This practice not only promotes cognitive flexibility but also encourages a deeper understanding of complex issues.

Enhancing OKR with Cognitive Closure:

So how can cognitive closure be integrated into the OKR framework to make it more effective? By providing employees with the opportunity to fall in love with problems rather than rushing to find immediate answers, organizations can foster a culture of curiosity and innovation. Instead of solely focusing on achieving key results, the emphasis can be shifted towards understanding the underlying problems and exploring multiple solutions. This approach ensures that employees are not just ticking off tasks but are actively engaged in finding meaningful and impactful solutions.

Actionable Advice:

To leverage the power of cognitive closure and enhance the effectiveness of OKR, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Foster a Culture of Curiosity: Encourage employees to embrace open-ended problems and remain comfortable with uncertainty. Create an environment where asking questions and exploring different perspectives is valued.
  • 2. Emphasize Problem Understanding: Shift the focus from solely achieving key results to understanding the underlying problems. Encourage employees to delve deeper into the root causes and explore various solutions before settling on a specific course of action.
  • 3. Provide Continuous Learning Opportunities: Invest in training and development programs that promote cognitive flexibility and critical thinking. Encourage employees to constantly seek new knowledge and challenge their existing assumptions.

Conclusion:

While OKR has been widely adopted as a goal-setting framework, its limitations are becoming increasingly apparent. By incorporating the concept of cognitive closure, organizations can overcome the challenges of aligning individual work with broader objectives and foster a culture of creativity and innovation. Embracing open-ended problems, resisting the urge for quick closure, and maintaining a focus on problem understanding can significantly enhance the effectiveness of OKR. By implementing these actionable tips, organizations can unlock the true potential of their teams and drive sustainable success in today's dynamic business landscape.

Resource:

  1. "The forgotten cousin of OKR that could make it 10x better", https://medium.com/irlproduct/the-forgotten-cousin-of-okr-that-could-make-it-10x-better-1bdff5c32b1f (Glasp)
  2. "Reopening the mind: how cognitive closure kills creative thinking", https://nesslabs.com/cognitive-closure (Glasp)

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