This blog on th!nk!ng, concludes our February 2017 ‘How not to…..’ sequel.
We all think and moreover in a particular manner, for as long as we are awake and conscious.
Growing up as a child in Nakabugu Village Uganda, our mother, an accomplished educator always reminded us that the quality of everything we do is influenced by how an individual applies brain-power to different problem contexts. In my mother’s world, one’s brain should never be looked at in abstract terms. The human brain has to be manipulated for it to apply different thinking power and style, to different problem domains.
It was brain manipulation at its best albeit, in a laywoman’s non-scientific setting. Our mother knew that she could not biologically change the brains God gave her children, but that she could manipulate them to help us apply different brain power and thinking style, to different problem domains.
Maama always used the phrase in my local dialect Lusoga: ‘muuna, kyoka katonda….bureini wajivaaku, kale boona oyoo!’, literally translated as: ‘’friend, you have to respect God for creating this ‘thing’ called the brain in humans…it’s different for everyone!’
It is beyond the scope and expertise of this blog to get into matters related to the science of Intelligence Quotient (IQ). However, it is not far-fetched to write on this blog that the type of thinking exhibited by humans significantly influences cognition and problem-solving outcomes.
We all interact/ed with peers and teachers at school and college as well as colleagues at work. And yet what we take for granted, is a significant driver of how productive we may be or not, in a particular work context – i.e. the thinking-type. The type of thinking that your brain ‘emits’ influences how much value you add to solving a particular problem.
Problem-solving, we believe, is influenced by the thinking-type and not necessarily the energy/intensity of thinking. At college, you must have come across peers that put in twelve hour plus days of revision time but still performed poorly compared to those that put in much fewer hours. At work, you may like discussing matters finance, while a peer feels at home whenever they discuss new product invention. Both yourself and the peer may not be considered stupid until you are told to problem solve outside your thinking-type
Therefore, effective problem solving boils down to matching different thinking-types to problem-solving situations.
Linear thinking follows a stepped pattern. Linear thinking is like climbing the staircase in your house. You always want to climb the staircase in a sequential, step by step manner. You do not want to jump from the beginning of the staircase to the middle or end – that will stretch the muscles in your legs, use up more energy, and you risk tripping on the stairs. A broken staircase is even harder to navigate – just like it is with ‘broken thinking’.
Similar to the staircase mechanism, linear thinkers tend to seek a response to a problem before moving to the next and perhaps tougher part of the problem. Linear thinkers do not usually tolerate breakage in their thinking pattern. They are not comfortable with discontinuity.
Examples of linear thinkers: the teachers we see in most of our public schools in Uganda and perhaps East Africa are linear thinkers. Apparently, even accountants tend to fall in the linear thinking bucket. We should also be careful not to stereotype certain occupations. You will indeed find accountants and teachers that aren’t the linear-thinking type – and very good ones at that
Critical thinkers are sought after by the contemporary firm. All schools with an international tag in Uganda and most of East Africa want to differentiate themselves along the lines of teaching ‘critical thinking’. Critical thinkers will approach problem-solving in this manner: they analyze the challenge from multiple perspectives; gather information; identify a range of solutions from the various elements at play; subject the options they have identified to rigorous questioning, plus, they will ensure that all elements in their thinking pattern influence their conclusion.
Examples of critical thinkers: business analysts
Holistic thinking (Zig-Zag):
Holistic thinkers are what the Effectiveness lab calls zig-zag thinkers. They embrace a multi-dimensional thinking pattern. Their thinking pattern manifests in tectonic-like brain-waves. They are the big-picture type and understand the interconnectedness of the various elements on the table.
Examples of holistic thinkers: strategy consultants and career politicians
Creative thinkers always break from the norm – they challenge the status-quo. They are the innovators. At the Effectiveness lab, we have used the term risk-junkies to describe them. They are ‘out-side-the-box’ thinkers and will accomplish outcomes that are different from the norm. Creative thinkers are known to challenge the status-quo all the time
- What thinking type are you?
- What about your children or even spouse?
- Can you in a seamless manner, switch your thinking-type from one type to the other, to fit changing problem-domains?
- For those of you that manage individuals and teams, do you match different thinking-types to problem-solving situations?
- And our final question on this blog, do you have a thinking-type map of your team?
Managers should consider using in a more deliberate manner their staff thinking-type grid whenever they are assigning tasks to individuals/groups. Sustaining effective work outcomes at the modern firm calls for a different approach to task assignment. It can no longer be by function, department or seniority – this is too linear and won’t derive effective solutions to systemic company problems.
Effective problem-solving at companies is driven by the thinking-type needed for a particular problem domain.
Welcome to the ‘borderless,’ ‘departmentless’ organization. Work teams and the ensuing organizational structures will increasingly be determined by organizational problem domains and the thinking types required, and not traditional functions and departments