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The Effectiveness-Lab

Unorganised thinking and the power of structure

We all use the word STRUCTURE to mean many things both in our private and workplace environments. Structure to many is hardware i.e. it is tangible, visible, and not often related to the invisible.

A resolution to put patterns to thinking!
A resolution to put patterns to your thinking!

Structure in a formal sense is a fundamental, tangible or intangible notion referring to the recognition, observation, nature, and permanence of patterns and relationships of entities. This notion may itself be an object, such as a built structure, or an attribute, such as the structure of society. From a child’s verbal description of a snowflake, to the detailed scientific analysis of the properties of magnetic fields, the concept of structure is now often an essential foundation of nearly every mode of inquiry and discovery in science, philosophy, and art.

It is correct to write in this blog that STRUCTURE offers a hierarchy (a cascade of one-to-many relationships), a network featuring many-to-many links, or a lattice featuring connections between components that are neighbors in space.

From the above diversity of STRUCTURE, the wise create all sorts of value-configurations: in a network of many-to-many links comes organisation strategies/business plans; the connections between components that are neighbours in space support the creation and articulation of organisation charts (structures); and from the cascading of one-to-many relationships we derive professional and departmental collaboration, a must at the modern knowledge organisation.

It is apparent from the above that STRUCTURE is the glue that holds organisational ecosystems together

There is one aspect of STRUCTURE that is often lacking or taken for granted at the modern organisational eco-system. The STRUCTURE of thought or better, THINKING-STRUCTURE.

What about thinking-structure?

Have you come across colleagues some of them senior, whose talent to think is not in question and won’t stop suggesting potential-business-changers? Have you also observed that amongst this ’ideas-type’, is a category that simply mint ideas at every opportunity, but never remember looping back to their ideas from a week ago? Do you like many that share with the effectiveness lab, find this type of colleague, a disorienting influence to effective value-creation at the organisation?

Perhaps this is the place to ask what thinking-structure is. At the effectiveness-lab, thinking-structure is: the seamless ability to produce potential business-changing ideas and seamlessly put a pattern to them. It is not enough to simply throw ideas without patterns, at others. When this happens, the ideas’ generator becomes a disorienting influence on others and the organisations value-chain

Contemporary team-theory has it that in a team lies the ideal solution to the above dilemma: i.e. a team normally has multiple skills sets and often, there is someone with the skills set to put much-needed structure to the long lists of the ‘ideas-type’ above. Well, wait a moment. In the ever fast-moving business environment, even those able to put structure to raw-ideas, no longer have the luxury to start such a ‘structuring’ process from scratch. It helps get ideas to market in record time when potential business-changer ideas are not too raw as and when they come out of our heads. In simple words, the ideas-minting type needs to put some basic structure or pattern to their ideas.

So, is the UNSTRUCTURED idea-minting type staff a liability to a fast-moving modern organisation?

A while ago, the effectiveness-lab blogged about how leaders turn risk-management into an asset for their organisations. The blog defined a staff typology:

  1. The Follower – this type of staff waits for instructions from above and shall do as told. Many graduates of the colonial education system in the Great Lakes region, for example, are of this type. They have been taught to follow instructions, and even at very senior levels, they demand accompaniment from their seniors.
  2. The fuzzy intellectual – this type of staff is indeterminate, changes position at every meeting, wants to ‘appease’ those they perceive as superior, can be very difficult to supervise especially if they are senior and accountable for strategic tasks. They are full of talk but no action, and while extremely intelligent, their very nature results in wasted-intelligence and unfulfilled potential.
  3. The risk-junky – this is the ‘fail-safe’ monk; they are observant and critical, won’t only question the status-quo but will also explore alternatives plus follow through on commitments to implement, they can at times appear anti-establishment, end up on stretch-assignment teams, and will bring to line managers advanced and not surprisingly, well thought through products. Creativity, quick and strategic thinking come naturally to them.

It looks like the unstructured ideas-minting type staff is similar to the fuzzy-intellectual above. The effectiveness-lab advises leaders to nurture one (1) and three (3) archetypes above to build powerful organisational value-chains. Staff type one helps ‘keep the show on the road’ as organisations need a certain level of continuity to be viable. While staff type three will obviously support the work of one, but at the same, shall follow their instinct to tinker, create new value, and when they fail, learn from the failure, but keep tinkering.

Organisations are advised to steer away from archetype two (2). In effect, the ideas-minting type is considered a liability for the fast moving modern organisation. After all, the risk-junky archetype brings to the table much of what the fuzzy-intellectual has to offer, but without the value-chain dis-orienting DNA. The one powerful differentiating factor between the fuzzy-intellectual and risk-junky is the ability of the latter to question the status-quo. In relating new-thinking to questions about the status-quo, structure and quality of ideas is all but guaranteed in the end product of the risk-junky

It is not far-fetched to conclude that the idea-minting type, like fuzzy-intellectuals, do not in reality bring quality-thinking. They are like the factories of old, that operated without an effective quality control regime.  Like the fuzzy-intellectual, the ideas-minting type is vulnerable to wasted thinking, and it is not surprising that many are known for their talking and not much more.

My takeaway: Just like many of us wake up in the morning and seamlessly walk out of our beds, we do the same when thinking, but often without paying enough attention to marrying the concepts of ‘thinking and structure’. Please remember to integrate and seamlessly at that, your thinking & structure. It will make you a more effective employer, employee, boss, wife and husband.


6 responses to “Unorganised thinking and the power of structure”

  1. I have been thinking a lot about staff thinking topologies since you blogged about it. I think, I’m now thinking to think!

    ABG, employees these days “do things right” but do not “do the right things”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I appreciate Apollo, but with the unemployment rates taking an upward trend, people’s thinking topologies have greatly been affected. Actually staff swing thinking topologies depending on the work environment they find themselves in.

    There are environments where you do not have to think! Do as you are told and that is it.


    1. Well steer clear of such workplaces!!!


  3. ABG, can a staff be precisely placed onto one of the thinking topologies described above? or there are chances that a staff will swing between topologies depending on organizational environment. For example, a staff can be a follower during orientation/probation days, and a risky – junky after confirmation. Just like Leadership styles change depending on circumstances.

    In organizations and indeed businesses without a properly defined ownership, governance and management (OGM) structure, all staff tend to be fuzzy intellectuals – this to please those they feel are influential. Leave out political organizations!


    1. Seddu – thanks for reading the blog

      Your submission raises one or two questions for me and I may not have the answers myself, atleast for now.

      Does one change typology b’se of the work environment they find themselves in or to graduate from a particular stage of employee life cycle, in this case probation? If it’s the former then one may see why that is needed in the rainbow-effect entity I blogged about recently – but, if it’s the latter, I.e. to pass probation, then that is scary, as it points to us not being AUTHENTIC

      In reality, we may, b’se of environmental factors cross typology, but we always have a bias towards one


      1. Seddu – I should add that a risk-junky shouldn’t technically suffer unemployment


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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