Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Linear Thinking

I have been struggling with my conscience for several months now, trying to remain rational and objective, yet still honest, about the multitudinous troubles facing this Nation. 
In the course of expressing myself in these regards I have found myself at odds with friends and family who react emotionally to what I consider to be rational and objective assertions. I have found that quite confounding, as what I say makes perfect sense to me and has been documented with mathematics, URLs, and other citations.
The first step was to stop emailing them and post stuff here. If I haven't convinced them in the past fifty or so years it isn't going to happen now. By putting it here I can send a bell-ringer and they can take it or leave it, it isn't clogging their inbox.
But then, thank you, one of them found a posting:
This site is difficult and only puts gasoline on the fire if the reader is a woman. Nevermind that the author is a woman herself. 
So no immediate help.
So why then "thank you"? 
Because the observations are perfectly valid. 
But more canonical than simply man or woman.
The friend proceeded to show this by using search and replace, exchanging linear thinker for man and non-linear thinker (or artiste in my lexicon if you prefer) for woman.
And then it all makes perfect sense without all the testoterone-laden gender bias stuff triggered by using man and woman as done originally. 
And this version is inherently non-inflammatory or embarrassing, since the choice of identifying yourself as either a linear or non-linear thinker is entirely up to you.
So here it is in Courier font, with my introduction and in-line remarks in blue Arial font:   
To be kind: I think that linear thinkers deal with life as being what they perceive as reality - what it is - (mostly as a consequence of often painful hands-on experience). They are fully cognizant of its divergence from the ideal but equally unwilling to diverge from its reality. 
So as a consequence, as the author alludes, they are intransigent in pursuing their course. They blow off disapproval; they are committed to their cause. They don't get mad, they just carry on, with ever more determination. (And arguably, e.g., Winston Churchill, Jesus Christ, Florence Nightingale, and many, many others, have saved civilization or portions of it over and again from certain death with this sort of behaviour.) By contrast, non-linear thinkers deal with life as if it were what they wished it might be. Further, they have little or no cognizance of their view's divergence from reality. 
I have often been told: "You're so certain. What if you're wrong?"
It's the what if that makes the difference. The linear thinker thinks things through completely and exhaustively (and exhaustingly) and comes to a conclusion. So "what if" has no existence in his lexicon.
So then, as the writer alludes, the non-linear thinker is embarrassed and become angry and defensive when the obvious divergence between their assumption and actual reality is pointed out to them. A natural reaction, and fully predictable. 
I could, but shan't, recount equal examples of their failures. Doesn't matter. They lost. 
So the cited article is presented here with the aforementioned exchanges and my in-line comments:
Research has demonstrated that non-linear thinkers have a more inclusive, collaborative work style. They tend to try and achieve consensus, employ a fair and equitable process and avoid conflict.
Yes, but we don't particularly care about inclusiveness and consensus. We care about results and can show that our way generates the kinds of results we seek. Q.E.D. 
Linear-thinkers focus more on the results and the shortest, most direct path to the goal. Their cooperative relationships are more like sports teams, with everyone having a designated role. The team may take precedence over the individual.
Yes. what matters most is the result. It is not about me or anybody's feelings. It is about the result.  
As such, linear and non-linear thinkers have a different way of acting, reacting and communicating. In my 30-or-so-year career, here follow the major lessons I’ve learned about how to do business with a linear thinker, if you are a non-linear thinker.
1. Cut to the chase. Don’t beat around the bush. Get to the point. Spit it out. Linear thinkers don’t want stories. They want "just the facts". When talking to linear thinkers, leave out the details and stick to the broad strokes. Provide basic context, give the minimal background info and skip the "colour". Offer them the Cole’s Notes version, they will ask any necessary questions to find out the additional information that they need/want to know.
Yes. An especially important lesson to learn because "People Like Them" are the people who usually end up in charge, certainly at the top.  
2. Along the same lines, minimize the explanations about why you didn’t or can’t do something. The background explanation is probably not interesting or pertinent and may end up sounding like an excuse. Instead, outline how you intend to compensate for or correct the situation. Linear thinkers are much less interested in the why, and much more concerned about the what.
Yes. the What, but also the how: OK, we have this situation, for better or worse. WHAT are we going to do about it? No blame, no shame, it is what it is, but we need to fix it. How
3. Don’t take it personally. Sometimes, it might be necessary to cultivate a thicker skin.
Yes, especially. Once again: it is what it is. Let's deal with it. 
Linear thinkers have an enviable ability to shrug off criticism, move past negative comments, or ignore unwanted input.
Yes. The distinction between facts (which are useful) and opinions (which are not).
To non-linear thinkers, even casual feedback is often perceived in the worst possible light, a direct and laser-sharp pinpointing of their shortcomings and failings. They will think about it, turn it over and dwell on it with much more consideration than any with which it was given.
Yes. Angst, "You're not being very nice." I'm being perfectly nice. But there is water in the bilge and we need to fix that.
Get over it. 
While non-linear thinkers will consider each and every word and all of their possible meanings, linear thinkers will be thinking of the message – the information they wanted to impart.
Yes, please: what did I say? That is what I meant. Don't try to read more into it, just answer the question. 
4. You might want to ditch the chip on your shoulder. Lesson number 1: Life is not fair; Lesson number 2 – See lesson number 1). Not all circumstances or situations can be absolutely equitable or fair.
Yes. And the author's realization of this fact of reality is especially what makes me think she is a closet linear thinker. Recognizing the difference between what is and what we would all like it to be. 
 (I’ve had a particularly hard time with this one). Linear thinkers “get” each other. There will always be times when you are the odd one out, basically because you are not a linear thinker.
We only need eye contact and a smirk or a single assertive phrase to know that we are in the company of shipmates. 
And we only need an averted gaze or a deference to know that we are not. 
What the author does not address, but is equally true, is that we often rely on visceral perceptions. We can't prove them, but we (and everyone else around us) knows they are true. So we act on them. 
And, in fact, we are taught in our leadership and management courses, to do so, of course with caution and discrimination. And we discount those around us who refuse to recognize the visceral reality. 
Before we get too PC here, let us remind ourselves that this is precisely why we have a jury system: to give judicial credence, by unanimous majority, to visceral perception. 
5. Whatever you do, don’t cry. I know this is a tough one, because many non-linear thinkers manifest anger as tears. But linear thinkers don’t understand this. In a professional setting, linear thinkers perceive tears as a purely emotional reaction – sad or unhappy. Crying makes them extremely uncomfortable and they don’t know what to do.
Um, I disagree here. Crying doesn't make me at all uncomfortable. It just shows that he is a dweeb. I know exactly what to do. Send him to his room, get him out of my life. Now.
The reason they may interpret crying as weakness or a sign that you can’t cope is because generally, that is what they have been taught.
Yes, exactly. Why cannot you control your bodily functions? You were out of diapers at three. Please explain how this might not be true? Q.E.D.
Unfortunately this reflects poorly on you. If you think you’re losing it, excuse yourself or reschedule for a time when you feel able to be less emotional or better able to act with stoicism. It’s preferable to seem abrupt or rude than give way to tears.
Oh, please, yes. And men cry as well. Amazing.
Abrupt and rude can be perceived as strength. Tears are not. 
6. There is more than one way to skin a cat. Rules are made to be broken. Linear thinkers focus on the shortest way between two points. If there is a shorter, quicker, easier way to do something, they will find it.  Non-linear thinkers often have a hard time getting on board with this, as they are more rules and process oriented, they may not automatically look for an alternate to the specified method. Non-linear thinkers may feel they are cheating. The key is to take the time to examine the opportunities, and agree if/how they can be leveraged.
Yes. I live by my rules, not other people's. And my rules are based on higher rules in succession, like the U.S. Constitution and God's rules. Much bigger than any contemporary's rules. I just don't care about their rules. 
(Oh, and the author's use of the phrase "getting on board with this" is classic Navy speak. So again, I suspect that she is a stealth linear-thinker. And very good at it.)
I care about the rules from my Lord and Master. And maybe that is where the difference lies: 
Who is your Lord and Master?


Pat LaVarre said...

Andy L said...

Thanks. I am not alone.