Here are four thinking styles every global manager should be aware of when managing a multicultural team.
Deductive thinkers need to know why. They ask: Why is one project more important than another? Why are we doing this? Why the sudden urgency? Why should I care? These thinkers are looking for the logic of actions in an organization.
For them the key is to know why or they lose interest.
Managers who work with deductive thinkers must explain why. “Trust me, I’m the boss” simply does not work with them.
Inductive thinkers need to know how. How did we decide? How did we do the numbers? How will we change?
Their decision making process also involves looking at history.
They often ask: How did we do this in the past?
When inductive thinkers analyze a problem, they need data on how things have been done in the past. They want to see reports, review history and double check results before deciding anything. Methodology matters most.
Deductive and inductive thinkers can often clash when problem-solving. “Who cares how,” a deductive thinker might say. “I can tell you why.”
Linear thinkers need to know when, and in what order. When is it due? What needs to happen first? Who does what?
They dislike ambiguity or gaps in the process. They need to see how A connects to B and then C and D — like a map route in your car that provides step-by-step instructions.
Vision statements mean little to linear thinkers unless an organization outlines concrete plans of execution.
Systemic thinkers focus on the end goal, paying less attention to the details of the different steps to be taken in order to achieve the goals. In other words these are the people who have a tendency to create vision in an organization and make sure goals are attained.
“I don’t care what you do or how you do it,” a systemic thinker might say, “as long as the job gets done.”
Systemic thinkers often clash with linear thinkers when they send follow up e-mails seeking guidance on procedures. “That’s your job to figure it out,” a systemic thinker might respond.
An example:- The design of Airbus´s A380 commercial jet.
French engineers approached the design with a deductive and systemic mindset, while their German counterparts applied inductive and linear thinking.
The result was often costly miscommunication. In one case, visionary French designers added three centimetres to the diameter of a conduit to accommodate the potential of additional wiring. The more practical German designers looked at the plans and saw unneeded costs. They trimmed three centimetres from the pipe’s diameter to save money, but then ran into problems when additional wires did not fit.
The inaugural A380 flew out of Toulouse, France, after nine months of delays with duct tape holding some wires in place. The problem was not French or German engineering, but differences in thinking preferences and the failure of managers to use effective cross-cultural communication.
- Managers need to recognise, respect, reconcile and with work with cultural differences to find practical solutions.
- Effective Crosscultural / Intercultural Communication mixes culture and communication tools.
- The concept of “four thinking styles” is a tool for managers to understand how culture influences decision-making.
Source: Thunderbird School of Global Management and The Practice Office Group.
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