Workplace Trends

Workforce Trends

A Team Approach: Valuing Differences

By Lee Hecht Harrison on August 12, 2013

What if you had Henry Ford, Charles Darwin, Steve Jobs and Sherlock Holmes all on one team? Would different approaches to problem solving hinder or advance the team’s goals?  As a leader, you want to extract the best thinking from each member of your team.  While individuals on your team may approach challenges and opportunities in vastly different ways, do they work well together?  Do they understand individual preferences and how their unique approach contributes to the overall success of the team?  If team members lack insight into differences and don’t value diverse points of view, you could find the them working at cross purposes and struggling to achieve goals.

While your team might not include notables like Ford, Darwin, Jobs and Holmes, by harnessing each person’s unique way of thinking through an issue or process, you too will create a team that drives organizational success. In his study of cultural orientation, Denis Leclerc highlights four types of thinking processes people use. These are:

  • Deductive Thinking – This person is most curious about “why” something happens. Imagine Sherlock Holmes investigating crimes by scrupulously answering the “why” questions.
  • Inductive Thinking – This person is most concerned with “how.” Imagine Charles Darwin methodically questioning how a process works.
  • Linear Thinking – This person is most focused on the practical process, what and when. Imagine Henry Ford systematically thinking through the manufacturing process A to Z.
  • Systematic Thinking – This person is most interested in the big picture, getting the job done. Imagine Steve Jobs directing his team to design an iPod. It was a short conversation.

Building a strong team requires the cultivation of a wide range of perspectives to ensure the team is dynamic and better able to anticipate and address challenges and opportunities.  A team made up of all like-minded individuals can become insular and stagnate.  Tension can arise as the four styles work together if each lacks insight into the others’ thinking processes.  Once identified, and each person’s strength communicated, individual roles and contributions could emerge naturally and the team would reap the rewards of each of the styles.

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