Linear Thinking Is Not Enough

Linear thinking is the best! At least, that is what I thought early on in ministry. Linear thinking is approaching problems from a process perspective, a “step-by-step progression where each step is completed before the next step is begun” (Lamp 2009). For the most part, this process approach has provided me with a framework that has allowed me to simplify problems, see through the noise of emotions, territories, agendas, and preferences in order to get a large number of tasks done in a short period of time. To this day I carry a pen in my pocket in case I need to pull out a napkin in order to write down a process to a challenge my brain won’t quit working on.

What I have learned over the course of my adult life, however, is that when working with people, a linear approach is not always the best approach. Linear thinking is not sufficient for complex, turbulent systems and poorly structured tasks (Sadler-Smith & Shefy, 2007). Working with people is always complex, filled with overlapping turbulent systems, and represent a haphazard array of tasks. Working with people is not nice and neat, and what I learned was that trying to fit people into a nice and tidy linear way of thinking was a frustrating endeavor. People are grayer than they are black-and-white. People present unimagined variables that linear thinking cannot account for despite its ability to perform highly structured tasks (Sadler-Smith & Shefy, 2007).

Non-linear thinking provides the ability for individuals to possess creative thinking, intuitive thinking, integrative systems thinking and emotive thinking (Vance et al., 2007). As a leader, success is hindered if linear and non-linear are possessed exclusively. To dynamically lead an organization of people leaders must possess both to be successful.

References

Lamp, C. (2009, April 11). Do we think differently? Linear vs. Non-linear thinking. Retrieved from http://chuckslamp.com/index.php/2009/04/11/non-linearthinking/

Sadler-Smith, E., & Shefy, E. (2007). Developing Intuitive Awareness in Management Education. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 6(2), 186–205.

Vance, C. M., Groves, K. S., Paik, Y., & Kindler, H. (2007). Understanding and Measuring Linear-NonLinear Thinking Style for Enhanced Management Education and Professional Practice. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 6(2), 167–185.


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