We all think but we all don’t think the same way. Anyone with any exposure to other humans would have to agree with that statement. Surely. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could anticipate how someone we work with will approach a problem and figure out how to mirror their approach? That would be a big boost to our power to communicate with this person, wouldn’t it?
In fact, Warren Kinston and Stan Smith recently delineated nine thinking styles. In addition, they have developed explanations of how a person using a particular thinking style will start in addressing an issue, how they will develop and explore possibilities, resolve the line of thinking, reiterate, implement, review the situation and overcome failure. With nine thinking styles and eight different aspects of each style, that’s a lot of information to present. For the sake of a shorter blog post, here is a link to a chart of the style names and how each presents.
Any of these look familiar? If you’re anything like me, you latch on to one or two of the types as being clear and obvious while experiencing some befuddlement with a few of the others. Then some other styles are somewhat familiar but not your preferred approach. To add a little complexity to the discussion, there are three different arenas where we do our acting and thinking — (1) Athletic / Aesthetic, (2) Academic, and (3) Organizational. Some people have a different primary style in all three of these, and others might consistent across all three. So where does your head go first when thinking about a training issue? A work issue? A academic theory or idea?
Using myself as an example because that’s the example I know the most about, I rely heavily on the Pragmatic Style, particularly in work settings. I’m always on the lookout for ways to leverage work already done and existing experience for further gain. I do rapid ROI’s on each option in my head then pick a primary path with backup options. Where I meet minor obstacles, I adapt the approach and keep on. Where the pushback is action-stopping, I’ll revert to a backup plan, retreat a little from the situation to better observe what’s occurring or just turn my attention elsewhere to a more promising course of action.
But that’s work. I use Synthetic Style often with athletic issues and wish I used it more frequently in organizational realms. In athletics, I envision and feel within my body the desired state. This is my guide when developing goals and training plans. What’s in my head now? The image and bodily sensation of being fit, lean, healthy and fast by late summer. I hold that image in my mind and navigate the different systems and variables (being a good parent, providing for the family financially, career growth, leveraging past athletic experience, activity for health and enjoyment) that will lead me there. Decisions about what to do next aren’t so much thought through as they are “tried on” for fit and consistency with that desired state.
Here’s a thought experiment: If we do use a different primary style in one of the areas (i.e., athletic), how well can we cross over use of the style to the other two (i.e., academic and organizational)? I’m challenging myself to use Synthetic Style more broadly by viewing organizational issues through a lens of athletic metaphors. The tough part for me is having a clear enough picture of the desired destination organizationally to effectively back into the incremental steps to get there. Why is that? Is it a lack of exposure to role model organizations to draw desirable examples from? That sounds kind of like a cop out, so I’m not buying into that excuse.
Interestingly, Stan Smith is creating an online survey to determine a person’s thinking style. He’s the guy who created Human Patterns. So coaches and other service provider professionals out there– how cool would it be to quickly assess new clients up front so you know how they think and in what scenarios they tend to think that way?
Next step would be guidance on how to best match your communciation style to other thinking styles, particularly those most foreign to ourselves. In my case, the stretch styles are Dialectic and Rationalistic. Do any readers feel akin to either of those styles? I’d love to hear a few anecdotes of how this plays out for you professionally and/or athletically.