What in the name of God were you thinking?

I had attended a training once. The trainer played a nice video which introduced a new concept to us – after watching the video I asked the trainer “What is Design Thinking?” She pondered for a moment and asked me “What do you think?” Now, I have been a trainer for a good number of years, so I could see where this was going. It is a trick used by many trainers – whenever you are unsure about the answer to a question that any trainee has asked; you turn the question back to the person who has asked it or to the entire batch of trainees and see if you can extract a coherent and meaningful answer. That way you can get yourself out of a sticky situation. I was not going to let her use that technique on me and get away with it. “I would have told you if I had any idea about it” I said. So predictably she turned her attention to the batch and asked the same question “what do you all think? It is a good question. What is design thinking?”

Much to my amusement, there was no answer from anyone. I was simply curious to know what the term meant, when I had asked the question. All I was expecting was an honest answer which I did not get. So I started to enjoy the growing discomfort of the trainer. If she had told me that she did not know and will be happy to look it up and get back to me, I would have settled for that happily.

So anyone who has taken up the job of training recently – there are two lessons here, for you.

1) Use the trick described above and if you are smart you can save yourself from your Achilles’ heel.

2) The more important lesson is – Be honest. It is more dignified than trying to act smart. No one expects you to know everything. You can always find the answer and get back to the person later. If you actually take the pain to do that – people will respect you more, including the person whose question got you into trouble in the first place. Don’t let your ego or pride get the better of you.

We were not allowed to use cell phones inside the training room; otherwise I am sure someone would have come up with an answer that Wikipedia so generously offers.

According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_thinking), Design Thinking is as follows –

‘Design thinking refers to creative strategies designers utilize during the process of designing. Design thinking is also an approach that can be used to consider issues, with a means to help resolve these issues, more broadly than within professional design practice and has been applied in business as well as social issues. Design thinking in business uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.’

Wow! I don’t know about you but that sounds too technical to me. It basically means solution focused thinking. You focus on the different solutions possible to any problem and care about the emotional needs of a customer strongly, and not dwell on the problem so much. (See below for more)

But the whole situation triggered a different question in my mind. How many different types of thinking are there and how are they different from one-another?

The list is quite big actually. In fact some are as follows (you may refer to http://thepeakperformancecenter.com/educational-learning/thinking/types-of-thinking):

  • Creative Thinking – Using imagination. Coming up with new and innovative ideas. Also referred to as ‘Out of the box thinking’.

 

  • Analytical Thinking – Break down the whole structure to its component parts. Logical step-by-step process to break down a complex system of information.

 

  • Divergent Thinking – Create many possible solutions. You start from a point and branch out in many directions in search of possible solutions using data available and impeccable logic.

 

  • Convergent Thinking – It’s the opposite of Divergent thinking. Here you put all the pieces of the puzzle together and form a logical single answer. You are looking for a few solutions to work with rather than multiple solutions.

 

  • Concrete Thinking – It involves thinking on the surface. It is to the point but lacks depth. It is the basic ability to comprehend and apply factual information.

 

  • Abstract Thinking – Ability to use, to make and understand generalizations. You pay attention to hidden meanings.

 

  • Sequential Thinking – Process information in orderly and prescribed manner. Use a step by step approach.

 

  • Holistic Thinking – Also known as Non-Linear thinking. See the big picture. Interconnections of some ideas; expand your thoughts in multiple directions.

 

  • Critical Thinking – Ability to exercise caution, ability to judge the authenticity, accuracy, worth, validity of any idea or information.

 

  • Design Thinking – This is a combination of both divergent and convergent thinking. At first, you create as many solutions for the problem at hand as possible, using divergent thinking. The focus is more on a creative free flow of ideas and non-linear thinking. You try to avoid judgement at this stage. Once you have created all possible solutions, you then apply convergent thinking to narrow down to a single solution or a set of solutions that is realistic and feasible. Here you apply logical reasoning, accuracy, speed and judgement. You try to find the best possible answer to the problem without leaving any room for ambiguity. This is the essence of Design Thinking.

It tends to be social in nature and preserves some element of ambiguity. Tangible ideas helps in communicating clearly and all designs can be re-designed. There is a whole lot more to it, but I will stop here. If you want more, please refer to https://www.tutorialspoint.com/design_thinking/

 

  • Meta-cognition – This one kills it all! This is thinking about thinking. It focuses on cognitive processes such as planning, monitoring, evaluation of progress etc. It is about being aware of awareness. It includes awareness of a) one’s thinking and learning and b) oneself as a thinker and a learner.

 

In 1956, a psychologist by the name of Benjamin Bloom, created and published a classification of thinking skills which is popularly known as the Bloom’s Taxonomy. The image will give you a better idea.

 

Click here for the image:  https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/

All of us use some or all of the above ‘thinking types’ at some point or the other. However, most of us have a few favorites and we tend to stick to those all the time. If you want to stand out and astound everyone with your intellectual abilities, practice the ones you are not comfortable with. For example if you are an Analytical thinker, try and use Design Thinking more often. It will help you to see a different perspective to a problem and enhance your problem solving skill tremendously.

What type of a thinker are you? How can you enhance your thinking skills? It can be a very useful asset for you especially if you are trying to solve a problem.

Remember, problems occur all the time and not necessarily at work place only.

Can you think of any other type of thinking? Well, when you think about it, you will be using Meta-cognition (sounds crazy, I know). Share this post with others and ask them to think about it as well (that means more Meta-cognition, it’s a vicious cycle!). Please share your thoughts on this. I would love to listen from you.

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