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Think Bigger (and Better and Deeper)

Move beyond level-one thinking

If you make every decision on the fly, you’re stuck at level-one thinking, requiring only passive observation. You’re too smart for that, Ninja! Elevate your levels of thinking by learning to incorporate analysis and interpretation into your decision-making processes.

Even smart Ninjas can get stuck in level-one thinking, a state of mind, according to Thomas Oppong (creator of the Thinking in Models course) characterized by observation, not interpretation or analysis.

Level-one thinkers are quick to develop simple, obvious opinions and seek out truths that confirm their existing world views.

Most people get stuck at level 1. They take in facts, statistics and information, but never question the reasoning behind them or make the effort to analyse what they have seen, read or been taught.

As the role of the Office Ninja evolves, the demand for admins who make decisions and solve problems at higher levels will soar.

Thinking in levels can expose flaws in your decision making process, helping you to make choices with little or no blindspots.

So what do the next levels of thinking look like?

Level-two thinking requires interpretation and analysis. Thinkers at this level are able to look at scattered pieces of information and see patterns, contrasts, and alignment. Level-two thinkers consider existing processes and make incremental yet highly valuable changes.

They can deconstruct assumptions and ideas that are hidden in an idea and detect the relationship among the parts or the relationship between the parts and the whole.

Level three is the “alpha stage” of thinking. Innovators thrive at level three, taking knowledge they learned in one context and applying it elsewhere. Level-three thinkers embrace new experiences, trusting that they will be useful later on.

Oppong insists that anyone, as long as they never become too bored, apathetic, or comfortable to ask “Why?” has the potential to be a level-three thinker. It will be hard. It will take work. But it will be worth it.

Society advances through the work of the alphas, because these creatives, innovators, and disruptors present new options and explore possibilities and new territories.

Who are some of the level-three thinkers in your life? What can you learn from them?


  1. What an eye-opening article. I believe I am presently a level two thinker. After reading the article, I will now strive to be a level three thinker… realizing that it will take much discipline and focus. I accept the challenge!

  2. Articles like this will help us advance from order taker to strategic partners! #redefinetherole

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