I think, therefore I can

Reflections on What Kind Of Thinker Are You?

Key ideas

  • Referencing the many profiling tools in the wild (e.g. MBTI, Tetra Map), the author posits that each worker has a different thinking profile. The author calls this a Workplace Thinking Style.
  • This profile uses two axes:
    • Focus: Do you pay most attention to ideas, process, action or relationships?
    • Orientation: Are you more into the bigger picture, or the smaller details?
  • The two axes frame a 2×4 matrix, as shown in the following diagram:
  • The types can be summarised as such:
    1. Explorer thinking is about generating creative ideas.
    2. Planner thinking is about designing effective systems.
    3. Energiser thinking is about mobilising people into action.
    4. Connector thinking is about building and strengthening relationships.
    5. Expert thinking is about achieving objectivity and insight.
    6. Optimiser thinking is about improving productivity and efficiency.
    7. Producer thinking is about achieving completion and momentum.
    8. Coach thinking is about cultivating people and potential.
  • Knowing each individual’s Thinking Style in a team gives one better handles to know its strengths and weaknesses, which makes it easier to organise, delegate tasks, recruit, train and so on.

What is my Thinking Style?

Personally, I identify most with Coach thinking. I’ve felt most at home when I’m involved with nurturing and developing others. Some of my best memories include mentoring youth and youth leaders in church, as well as coaching others with music. I feel a deep sense of fulfillment when I play a direct role in building up my community.

The next closest would be Planner thinking, with Optimiser thinking being a close third. I see the value of efficient and effective systems, and in preparing for anticipated threats and trends.

Why Planner over Optimiser though? No good reason actually… It’s simply where I feel my mind defaults to when I reflect on how I’ve lived and worked. For instance, between my wife and I, I’m more likely to plan our activities with the rainy days in mind, sometimes at the expense of current-day effectiveness. While I’m one to call things out for being ineffective or inefficient, I also hesitate when it comes at the expense of my relationships with others. But even then I wouldn’t say i’m very relational. I can see myself tiring out over Connector-type work after a while, given my introverted nature.

What are my thoughts on this piece?

  • I hope the preceding paragraphs already illustrate how profiling is not a scientific exercise. You can never be fully sure of your profile, regardless of what tool you’re using, or how effective it is, and neither should you get too engrossed with being sure. What it does do, is to provide a shorthand for understanding yourself and others, so that it’s easier to operate and organise in different contexts.
  • Depending on the richness of the tool you use, you may get a richer self profile. For instance, I’ve found my complete MBTI profile to be astonishingly accurate to how I perceive and understand myself. Part of this is due to the tool itself being thoroughly researched and contemplated. Another part of this is that when I took the full test, I probably understood myself much better than when I was younger.
  • The advantage of the Workplace Thinking Styles framework is its bias towards, well, working. I find it very generalisable to most working contexts, whether a specific industry, the marketplace, or in smaller settings like interest groups or even family settings when you’re trying to get things done. This is different from say, personality profiling, which may tell you what role you excel in, but not exactly how you might excel in it. For instance, my MBTI profile says I probably would be a good doctor, but not how I could contribute to the medical field in the best way (e.g. in my case, I would be a more involved in training and developing certain medical fields, and/or in developing plans and systems like contingencies).
  • Hence, as the article points out, having a good hold on your team’s Thinking Styles can give a big leg up in where you can delegate or where you need extra help, be it outsourcing, recruiting, etc.
  • However, profiling tools cannot replace skillful and engaged management. It takes commitment and an open mind to understand your team well, and to have a good grasp on their strengths, weaknesses, habits, inclinations, experiences, interests… and it’s yet another challenge to drive the team to excel. Profiling tools are just little maps that help us understand the way forward in parts.
  • We also shouldn’t let our Thinking Style limit our next developmental activity or venture. After all, our current Thinking Style might just be defined by the things we’ve tried. There might be room to grow in radically new areas. If your time allows and your risk appetite checks out, why not try something new and learn from the experience?

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