Four Types of Thinkers

There are four different kinds of thinkers in every organization, and they are all equally important.

“What If” Thinkers:

These are the folks who look for the possibilities rather than the problems.  They are the kind of people that would see something that hasn’t been made yet, and ask, “Why not!”  They creatively seek possibilities, and are quick to see potential.  They look beyond present reality to what could be, and thrive on positive change.

Sometimes, “What If” thinkers are criticized for being naïve and unrealistic.  They can exhaust more practically minded people --   but it always takes an idea person to get things launched.  Every great accomplishment starts with a good idea.

“Why” Thinkers:

“Why” Thinkers look beyond the surface to the deeper meanings.  In order to buy in, they need to understand the reason behind it.  They live on purpose, and are intentional in what they do.  “Why” Thinkers look underneath every idea for the grand purpose, and won’t invest themselves if they don’t see it.

Occasionally, when they don’t make all the connections, (or fail to find 100% agreement) “Why Thinkers”  bog down progress with their reluctance.  Living with ambiguity is a struggle for them.  However, they are the ones who make sure the right things are being done.

Without their valuable input, we might end up like the driver who, going the wrong direction, said, “Well, at least I’m making good time!”

“How” Thinkers:

These individuals immediately see all the details that need to be handled, whenever an idea is proposed.  They are excellent at planning ahead, and have good organizational skills.  Creating detailed “to do” lists helps them accomplish the goal.  They have a keen ability to look ahead and play out the implications of decisions.

“How” Thinkers may appear somewhat negative when an idea is proposed, but that’s because they are looking at the larger picture.  Almost instantly, (although they may not be able to articulate it right away) they sense the full impact of a decision, including the necessary time, energy, money, and resources.

“When” Thinkers:

These are the practical “Get it Done” people.  I’ve heard it said that in every organization there are Wish Bones, Jaw Bones and Back Bones.  “When” Thinkers are the Back Bones who turn plans to action.  Why just sit around talking about an idea, when you can get to work on it?

Sometimes, they may act prematurely (Ready – Fire – Aim), – but without them, there would be too much jaw flapping.  They are the ones who make things happen.

Wise, creative progress is made when all the thinking types work together, using their unique strengths for maximum energy investment.

Effective leaders understand that not everybody thinks alike – and that team members who see it differently add valuable perspective.


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