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   Thoughtscape: Thoughts and Tips from Mike Clayton


Issue 20

  Think Fast
How to respond quickly
... yet insightfully and precisely.
    News and views



Dear %1

My next book will be called Smart to Wise (read more in the panel to the right).  Smart people can think quickly and respond effectively.  Wisdom can take longer.  But is there a way to respond quickly and insightfully?  I think there is.

1. Listening
Avoid the temptation to try and do your thinking while the other person is speaking; it will end badly when you mis-hear what they say and respond inappropriately. 

The SCOPE Process will enable you to respond effectively.  SCOPE stands for:

  • Stop
  • Clarify
  • Options
  • Proceed
  • Evaluate

3. Stop
When you have heard the other person out, and listened carefully, stop.  Your confidence with silence will make a good impression and communicate the depth of your thinking. Use the time to relax and breathe deeply.

4. Clarify
Asking clarifying questions not only gives you some time to process what you have heard, it gives you more information.  Clarify facts, distinguish them from opinions and, if you have reason to, challenge shallow evidence and woolly thinking.

5. Options
Think through how you could respond and what the impacts would be. Two choices to make are:

  • A. Expert or Facilitator?
    Is this an area where you have deep expertise and can comment authoritatively, or will you provide supporting process to help reach a conclusion?
  • B. Knowledge or Opinion?
    Do you have a credible answer, or do you need to be clear that you don't know?  In the absence of sufficient facts or technical knowledge, you may be able to offer an opinion, but be clear about the extent of your confidence.

6. Proceed
Make your point clearly and succinctly. There are a number of simple frameworks that will help you to articulate your answer in a concise yet compelling way.  One is PPP:

  • Position
    State the relevant evidence that establishes the position, as you read it.
  • Pressures
    What are the pressures on the situation and on decision-making that need to be accommodated?
  • Point of View
    State your opinion, recommendation, assessment or decision.

7. Evaluation
Experts" are more often wrong than right (more about that when the Smart to Wise blog goes live).  So be prepared to constantly re-evaluate what you have said. The only way to be right all the time is to change your mind as soon as you learn that you are wrong.

Now, three supplementary tips...

Tip 1: Silence
Asking for time to think about something may not seem smart, but it is wise. Better to give a thought-out response than an off-the-cuff gaff. And in taking a moment, you are signalling not just that you are a thinker, but that the other person's question or problem is complex and important. This will flatter them. They asked for help: a quick answer could signal it was easy and that they were therefore foolish to not know.

Tip 2: Defer
You often need to think fast in presentations where you have colleagues to support you. If you get stuck, defer to one of them. Don't just say "over to you". Flag to your colleague that you need help, but give them thinking time, by saying something like: "in a moment I am going to ask Anita for her opinion, but first can I clarify..." Now Anita is alert to your difficulty and has time to prepare too.

Tip 3: Prepare
Thinking fast and responding insightfully does not come by magic, but through hard work and experience. Smart people (The Apprentice is back soon) can offer quick answers that are frequently shallow and even wrong. Wisdom demands that you you set aside time for reading, thinking, learning, discussing, debating, listening, watching, experiencing... It is this depth that will give you the capacity to rapidly assess a situation, make connections, and deliver meaningful insights.


Learn more about the journey from Smart to Wise.

Smart to Wise
is due out on 7 June



Some Recent Blog Posts


Who Else?
If you like these newsletters, please forward this to a friends and colleagues who might value them too.
If you are that friend or colleague and you want your own copies, just drop me an email


Two Seminars you may like

Faster, Better, Cheaper
Can you really get more for less?


How to Read People
... understand how people think


These are two of the 17 seminars* I am currently offering.  Here is the full list:

  • Three hour MBA

  • Seven Ways to get More from Your People

  • Seven Ways to get More from Yourself

  • Brilliant Influence:
    Ten Secrets of Persuasion

  • Brilliant Project Leader

  • Brilliant Team Leadership*

  • Brilliant Time Management

  • Faster, Better, Cheaper

  • How to Read People

  • It ain't the Stress that does the Damage

  • It won't work because...
    Handling Resistance to Change

  • More than just Survival:
    Thriving in Times of Change

  • Practical Decision Making

  • Practical Problem Solving

  • Practical Project Management

  • Risk Happens!
    Control Risk and Avoid Failure
    in Organisational Projects

  • The Seven Rules of Project Management

* Brilliant Team Leadership is not yet on the website

Learn more on my website.




Smart to Wise
Announcing my next book...

You’re smart. You know stuff. You’ve made great strides in your career and your life. But you know there’s more: there are things you want to do and people you want to impress that you can’t yet reach. Because being smart is not enough.

Smart to Wise is about how to become wise. It does not set out to give you the answers, nor to dispense wisdom, but to show you the direction of your journey.

I'm working on an exciting website and some great supporting material.  In the meantime:

I have just joined Pinterest and I love it.  I can offer a limited number of invitations, so if you want one, email me. If you just want to know what it is all about, follow me:


Brilliant Time Management

Currently my best-selling book on Amazon, Brilliant Time Management dances in and out of the time Management Top Ten.

Brilliant Time Management
"A fantastic, practical and plain-speaking framework for managing your time"
Buy from Amazon

Brilliant Project Leader

Meanwhile, Pearson has just concluded the first foreign translation rights deal for my newest book, Brilliant Project Leader, which will now appear in Italian.

Brilliant Project Leader
"I found this book packed with leadership tools and insight that have clearly been proven in the real world"
Buy from Amazon


Learning at Work Day

Many businesses arrange events to mark Learning at Work Day - this year on 17 May, with the theme "learning for growth".  Some organisations even have seminars and courses all week.  I've just taken my second booking for that week, but one slot on the 17th is still available - as are other slots.  Contact me to discuss which seminar would suit you best, or see the list on my website.

Learning at work day is supported by Pearson, publishers of four of my books, including...


Brilliant Stress Management
Brilliant Influence

All of my books are
available from Amazon


March Seminar Programme

Of all of my seminars, The Three-hour MBA was the big success in 2011.  I created it for the Bite Size open programme, and rolled it out in the autumn.  It's back in 2012.

There is a calendar on my website, with all of my open seminar dates. There are currently 30 dates in my diary.  Coming soon are:

Brilliant Time Management (mornings), and
The Three-hour MBA  

  • 20 March, London,
  • 21 March, Guildford,
    Ramada Hotel
  • 22 March, St Albans,
    Quality Hotel QH Centre

Practical Project Management
along with
Risk Happens! Control Risk and Avoid Failure in Organisational Projects (afternoons)

  • 21 June, London
  • 26 June, Manchester,
    Renaissance Hotel
  • 27 June, Birmingham,
    Copthorne Hotel
  • 28 June, Guildford,
    Ramada Hotel

Download a table of all of the scheduled dates here.  Book on 01227 252 100.

The Three-hour MBA, has been a great success as an open event, with some cracking feedback.  I am taking bookings for in-house seminars. 

“Packed in a significant portion of
powerful management advice into such a short time frame.
Many of the tools were familiar but linked in this way gave them added value”
Chris Self, Millwood House Consultants Ltd

The Apprentice Returns

The date for the first episode of Series 8 of BBC's Apprentice has not been announced, but Lord Sugar tweeted that it will be at the end of March.  My money is on 21 March at 9pm - email me if you want to know why. 

That means it will be before my next newsletter, so bookmark my Apprentice Page now, to avoid missing my episode analyses.


Brilliant Team Leadership is available as an in-house seminar from April.  Contact me for details if you're interested.

"Mike Clayton's presentation to the
Top Achievers seminar on
"Effective Leadership" was excellent, combining the right blend of information delivery with practical assignments for both individuals and groups to reinforce the content.
This was interspersed with humour which made the presentation more engaging.  I have no hesitation in strongly recommending him for talks, workshops or seminars."

Peter Haddon, MD of Top Achievers


New Readers...

This is the 20th Thoughtscape Newsletter, which comes out around 15 times a year. If you are new to it and wonder about what topics, tips and techniques you have missed, the full archive is available on my website.



This month, I am focused on finishing preparation of my new book for Pearson, due out in September. This is a step into a new arena and a new style of writing for me and I think it will do very well.

I have started work on promoting my biggest launch yet, an innovative title for Marshall Cavendish, due to be published on 7 June.  It will be something rather special.  The website will go live as soon as possible, with mini-eBooks available pre-launch.


My focus this year ...
... continues to be on writing, responding to press enquiries, and seminar and speaking engagements.  If you know a conference organiser who is looking for an engaging speaker with great testimonials, please do send them to my website: www.mikeclayton.co.uk.  If you need a speaker now, just contact me using the links below, or the contact form on my website.  You can download my speaker pack here.

Best regards


I recognise you get a lot of email and I don't want to add unwanted inbox clutter.  I intend to give useful tips and thoughts, but if you don't wish to get any more, I will understand, so just click the "no more emails" link and they'll stop.

Many thanks

    Please contact me ...
... mike@mikeclayton.co.uk
... Tel: 08444 141349
... www.mikeclayton.co.uk
... on Twitter @mikeclayton01

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© Mike Clayton, 2012