By Alexandra S. Jackiw, CPM®, CAPS, C3P
In the business world, the ability to understand and relate to people is critically important. Companies pay a lot of attention to the different personalities and motivational styles people have, testing people when they are hired to determine how they will “fit” into the organization. While these tests address how people generally approach life, they do not address the idea that we have different thinking styles.
Thinking styles are based on the concept that we use our intelligence differently. Your thinking style is not a personality trait or indicator of your intelligence quotient (IQ), but an interaction between both of these elements. There are different ways our minds can acquire and process information. Scientists have identified two main streams of information processing and four thinking styles:
Stream #1: PERCEPTION. This is how we perceive information.
a. Concrete: We use all five senses to experience tangible things.
b. Abstract: We go beyond the five senses to more intangible things like ideas, concepts and relationships.
Stream #2: ORDERING. This is how we process information.
a. Sequential: People with a sequential ordering style like to organize information in a linear, sequential way.
b. Random: People with a random ordering style organize information into chunks that don’t necessarily have a particular order.
When the brain processes information it uses one perceptual and one ordering approach. For example, while doing the laundry at home we use a concrete sequential approach, while during a brainstorming session in the office we likely use a concrete random or abstract random approach.
Why does this matter in business? While we all use different combinations based on the task being done, many people either prefer or strongly lean towards one or two thinking styles. Since the thinking styles are literally a reflection of how a person processes information, understanding the impact this has on that person’s thinking can help us communicate with them more effectively. This can greatly improve internal communications, employee development, and customer relations.
The four main thinking styles are:
1. Realist (concrete sequential): A person with this dominant thinking style likes predictability and dislikes working with teams or abstract ideas.
2. Analyst (abstract sequential): Many scientists fall into this category, which combines the ability to think abstractly with a strong tendency to then process and organize information.
3. Experimenter (concrete random): People who are concrete random thinkers are intuitive problem-solvers who like to experiment, learn from the process and then repeat the process.
4. Collaborator (abstract random): People with this thinking style thrive on teamwork and can often perceive the unseen, like relationships.
What kind of thinker are you? In the next blog in this series, we will explore the four main thinking styles in more detail.