Why Understanding Thinking Styles Matters

Why Understanding Thinking Styles Matters

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0972-3.ch002
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Abstract

RTS is a human systems theory, a model of innate human operational processes that interact with one another, with materials, and within contexts to affect the functioning of whole systems, regardless of their size or importance. RTS describes (and the DNV assessment identifies) the untrained, instinctive methods by which different individuals habitually make decisions about matters of various degrees of importance. These differing tacit methods are of the nature of automatic, instinct-like habits based upon template-like beliefs and operational habits. No particular method of instinctive thinking is inherently superior to another; no method has much meaning until the issue of context is considered. Thinking habit-patterns are more or less effective depending on the context within which they are used.
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Introduction

RTS identifies the distinctly different ways address problems when there is no right answer (Piaget, 1952, pp. 395-407). In other words, as summarized by Calvin (1996, p. 13), “Intelligence is what you use when you don’t know what to do.” Because the method for identifying this sort of natural intelligence is a simple non-verbal assessment, RTS can identify natural intelligence even in people with very low measures on standard intelligence tests.

RTS is a verifiable model of innate inferencing processes that people habitually and unconsciously apply to all sorts of situations. Consequently, each of us applies our particular inferencing habit as we deal with other thinkers, with the requirements of tasks, with available tools and materials, and so on. The effects produced by interactions of these thinking styles within various systems affect the functioning of individuals, small groups, and organizations as a whole.

These inferencing habits of RTS are invisible engines of thought; they differ from one another to such a degree that the very processes that make someone the best sales person, the best production worker or the most precise oral surgeon will almost guarantee1 that person will fail in a management position and visa versa. What makes RTS different from other concepts of decision styles is that RTS quantifies tacit, but stable and identifiable methods by which an individual makes on-the-spot inferences about: (1) what matters in a given situation (Discerning), (2) what is the best thing to do about what matters (Goal-Setting), and (3) how to do it (Problem-Solving).

The term inferencing style refers to the way in which any one of these three functions is habitually performed. For example, everyone has a particular inferencing style for deciding what matters to them (Discerning style), one for deciding what to do (Goal style) and one for figuring out how to do it (Problem-Solving style), though many do not use the same thinking style for each. A good number of individuals use different styles or combination styles for each of these functions; many use the same style for each. We call the combination of these styles a style pattern.

Those with certain style patterns habitually engage complex processes; those with the other style patterns engage clear and simple ones. Each style pattern works well for some situations and poorly for others. For example, although there are other factors to consider, people with Analytical Goal styles generally make good managers. People who apply Relational style patterns are capable of managing complex processes, but usually prefer not to. As a rule, those who engage the Direct style for planning and problem solving run into difficulties when placed in management positions, though they will out pace more complex styles in certain jobs, such as most sales positions2.

Someone who has mastered a set of skills for performing a particular job (whether that of a pipefitter or a surgeon) will have learned and will perform those skills in particular ways, depending upon that person’s inferencing pattern. Whether someone can effectively transfer a set of skills from one context to another, whether a person can handle ambiguity, novelty, and change, depends not upon learned skills, as many have been led to believe (though these are important). Rather it depends upon nearly invisible factors inherent within each of the Discerning, Goal-Setting, and Problem-Solving styles that comprise an inferencing pattern.

The fact that these inferencing patterns are stable, observable, and quantifiable means that the theoretical model of RTS is capable of being computationally modeled and that the effects of this predictive modeling ought to be capable of empirical verification.

This chapter addresses the need for having the capability to identify inferencing patterns accurately. To emphasize this need, we introduce problems associated with the Peter Principle. We then discuss the characteristics of RTS, applications of the DNV for determining thinking styles and contexts, and the relevant findings of a reliability and validity study of the DNV (Chiasson, Malle, & Simmons, 2003).

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