The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Acting, thinking, and feeling

Among the many ways to look at individual preferences, one is to look at the ways people like to decide or communicate, for example.

They’ll approach the question either through feeling, thinking, or acting.

In this, feeling may be best represented by ideas, intuition, or imagination. Another description could be to call it art. Thinking may be represented through informing, analysis, or organizing. That would thus link with science. And acting would be represented by experiences, processes, or learning. One could link it with craft.

These three options are described by Paul Ware as doors one can use to establish contact with another person. Depending on their preference people will prefer to establish contact through one of these doors but will benefit from using other doors in the follow-up and especially when it comes to their ability to move on in the process. This also means that by default they will often seek to avoid one of the three options and easily revert to one of them whenever things become complicated.

Henry Mintzberg also uses these three perspectives. For him, they can be seen in the ways people typically make decisions. Some of us will easily fall for feeling or seeing. Take for example a decision to buy a piece of art, people with a preference for feeling or seeing will buy something that they’ll describe as “love at first sight.” The people who prefer a thinking approach might find themselves researching the artist, trying to figure out how they’ve evolved and how prices for their artwork will change, and discussing with others what it is that they appreciate about that specific artwork. For those with a preference for acting, well, they might first try to buy different artworks to become acquainted with the process, but also to experience how others react to their collection. They might also try to create such a piece of art themselves to get an idea of what the artwork means to them.

What makes these approaches interesting in the decision process is that they transform the decision process in itself and shape how leaders address some of the riddles they are confronted with that are not solvable. This is especially powerful when it comes to strategy definition. Will they or their organization create a strategy based on planning (thinking), visioning (feeling), venturing (doing), or learning model (doing)?

While all lead to a strategy, they may not be seen or understood by all as a strategy. Especially when people have different blueprints of what a strategy has to be. Nevertheless, all are strategies. The form doesn’t decide on what is right for the leader or the organization.


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