Gemba Book Club: Collaborative Intelligence | Thinking With People Who Think Differently

When I was a little girl, I preferred to watch my sister play Nintendo rather than play it. She’d invite me to join her, but I didn’t know how to play, so I observed until I understood.

As a writer, my ideas begin to make sense when I’m doing something active, like running or playing the piano. There’s something about movement that helps me organize my thoughts and sort them into comprehensive ideas.

As an artist, I do my best, most innovative work with soothing music playing in the background. Silence is bothersome – I require background noise to open my mind and consider new ideas.

I’ve always assumed these habits were just natural characteristics of my personality, minor quirks that made me who I am.

As it turns out, those habits are indicators of the way my mind naturally processes information.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.44.34 AMThe Gemba team and I recently finished reading Collaborative Intelligence, a book written by Dr. Dawna Markova and Angie McArthur that explores how humans can best “think with people who think differently.” After years of research and experimentation, the authors suggest that each person falls under a specific “mind pattern,” a process in which our brains think and pay attention to stimuli. They tell us that in order to develop a “mind-share” mentality, we must learn to think with people who have different mind patterns.

“A mind-share world necessitates that we learn to use influence with others rather than power over them.”

There are six different mind patterns, and each one is representative of three languages of thought: auditory, kinesthetic, and visual.



Auditory Thinking = listening, telling, discussing, singing, and talking

Kinesthetic Thinking = doing, moving, feeling, and making things

Visual Thinking = looking, watching, reading, showing, observing, and writing

And our attention is broken down into three states: focused, sorting, and open. How we respond to each state of attention depends on how we use the three languages of thought.

For example, my mind patter is VKA. Which suggests my “focused” attention is most productive when I’m surrounded by VISUAL stimuli. My”sorting” attention is most productive when I’m participating in KINESTHETIC stimuli. And my “open” attention is most productive when consumed in AUDITORY stimuli.

So if you look back at my behaviors I outlined at the top, it all kinda makes sense, right? I preferred observing my sister play Diddy Kong Racing rather than jumping in because visuals help me focus my attention. I organize my thoughts when I’m on a run or playing the piano – kinesthetic behaviors that help me sort my thoughts. And my most creative (or open) work is done when I’m surrounded by music or light background chatter.

Maybe you have a coworker who doodles in their notebook during meetings. Maybe it bothers you. Maybe you think they’re being rude, ignorant, or lazy. Markova and McArthur might suggest that the behaviors that bother you about your coworker are actually the things that help them open their mind and process new ideas. Your coworker more than likely has a different mind pattern than you, and if you can become consciously aware of those differences, you’re one step closer to creating a collaborative work environment.

Discover your own mind pattern here, then go read the book. It’s fascinating, and it’ll help you determine how to think deeper, work more efficiently, and collaborate more fruitfully.

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