The Savvy Director >> Weekly insights delivered to your inbox on Sunday mornings. Click here

The Accurate Thinker

think independently Mar 03, 2024


Accurate thinking is a process that helps us differentiate between relevant and irrelevant facts. It’s an important skill to have whether we’re reviewing board materials, presentations, books, newspapers, or even when watching our favorite political news television channel.

The phrase was coined by success guru Napoleon Hill in the 1930’s. I’m endlessly fascinated by the influence of Hill’s 17 Principles of Personal Achievement that have been read in multiple languages and adapted by thousands of CEO’s, entrepreneurs, and leaders around the world.

Accurate thinking is Hill’s Success Principle #10. It’s credited with enabling breakthrough thinking for everything from Jonas Salk’s discovery of the polio vaccine to the revitalization of the European economy after World War II, to a wide variety of philanthropic and entrepreneurial success stories from the gurus we know today.

As you read this week’s edition of The Savvy Director, I encourage you to use your own version of accurate thinking to determine whether my reflections on accurate / critical / independent thinking are valid in your own eyes.

Ultimately, our view at DirectorPrep is that the 5th Key Habit of the Savvy Director – Independent Thinking, simplifies and pulls these concepts together to support our work in the boardroom.


Accurate Thinking

“Accurate thought involves two fundamentals. First you must separate facts from mere information. Second, you must separate facts into two classes – the important and the unimportant. Only by doing so can you think clearly and accurately. Truth will be truth regardless of a closed mind, ignorance or the refusal to believe.” – Napoleon Hill

How does Hill’s Success Principle #10 help us as board directors?

I’m reminded of the old cliché – separating the wheat from the chaff – meaning to separate things or people that are of high quality or ability from those that are not.

AI generated image from Shutterstock. “Separating the wheat from the chaff in a boardroom.”

The same approach applies to board information - what we receive in our board papers, in presentations from experts at conferences, in webinars, and in our boardrooms. Are we separating the wheat from the chaff - spending our limited board meeting time on the right things?

As an accurate thinker, it’s important to scrutinize every bit of information you encounter, realizing that facts that may be colored, modified, or exaggerated, either intentionally or carelessly. It’s not cynical to think that, it’s realistic. Any political campaign demonstrates the point in great detail.


Key Question

The simple question “How do you know?” goes a long way toward helping you filter whether the sources of information are real and worth your time to consider.

Every board director has the right to fully understand the source and validity of the data and information they receive. No doubt the CEO and their management team have a good handle on it. But in situations where the source of improbable research leaves you feeling curious, don’t hesitate to ask, in a respectful manner, “How do you know?”

Others will be glad you did.


The Board Package

In preparation for your board meeting, you’ll receive a package of information for pre-reading. The accurate thinking director pays attention to their pre-reading, asking themselves, “What’s fact and what’s opinion?” “What’s important and what’s not?” and “What’s relevant to the decision at hand and what’s irrelevant?”

In addition, an accurate thinker reviews the material with a view toward finding alignment with the purpose of the organization and its strategic goals and objectives, asking themselves, "Are we paying attention to the right things?" "Does our board agenda reflect what’s of greatest value and strategic importance to the organization right now?”


Todays’ Version

I fully appreciate how accurate thinking came to be framed and articulated by Napoleon Hill and his followers through the 1930-1960’s era. I’ve also come to see how those early influences have informed the development of the critical thinking skills we know today. These skills help us identify where bias might be present in how we perceive the information that supports our board decisions. 

Hill’s research was intended to identify the success principles in common to the titans of industry who used accurate thinking in his era. Today, that’s evolved to independent thinking in the boardroom, a habit that allows us to ask even better questions to ensure we can make the best decisions, even with imperfect information.

Albert Einstein once said, “Small is the number of them who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.”

In the same way, there’s a small number of board directors with the self-awareness to take a few moments to question how they came to arrive at the opinions they now hold.

If you’re interested in learning more about The Savvy Director Key Habit #5, Independent Thinking, and how board directors can use it to challenge the status quo in a respectful manner, click here to review or download DirectorPrep’s free e-book.


Your takeaways:

  • Developing accurate thinking skills sharpens a board director’s ability to separate fact from opinion, the important from the unimportant.
  • Independent Thinking is the 5th Key Habit of The Savvy Director - the director who’s able to see clearly with their own eyes while helping their board avoid Groupthink.
  • The term Accurate Thinking is the tenth success principle credited to Napoleon Hill, whose work was foundational to the success of thousands of CEOs, entrepreneurs, and success coaches in the professional development industry.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask, “How do you know?” when someone puts forward questionable information in the boardroom.
  • The accurate thinker reviews board meeting material with a view toward finding alignment with the purpose of the organization and its strategic goals and objectives.




Thank you.


Scott Baldwin is a certified corporate director (ICD.D) and co-founder of – an online membership with practical tools for board directors who choose a growth mindset.


We Value Your Feedback: Share your suggestions for future Savvy Director topics.



Welcome to the Savvy Director Blog

Stay connected with our weekly posts about what it takes to be a savvy board director