Several years ago, Harvard Business Review published a thought-provoking article entitled “What Kind of Thinker Are You?”. It suggests there are eight thinking styles and that each of us is most effective when we’re exercising our own. The authors argue that when we traditionally organize our teams along team member personalities, specific skill areas and their roles on the team—primarily “doing skills,” and we miss an important factor—how each of us thinks.

The eight styles are divided into two broad-thinker layers—those that are best seeing the big picture and those involved in the details:

Big Picture

• Explorer—thinks about generating creative ideas

• Planner—thinks about designing effective systems

• Energizer—thinks about mobilizing people to action

• Connector—thinks about personal relationships


• Expert—focuses on achieving objectivity and insight

• Optimizer—focused on improving productivity

• Producer—thinks about achieving completion and momentum

• Coach—thinks about cultivating people

Understanding Your Thinking Style

To understand your thinking style, they outline a three-step process:

1. Identify the focus of your thinking in a context or setting—are you focused on ideas, process, action or relationships?

2. Identify where you tend towards the “big picture” or “details”—strategy or action?

3. Use the matrix below to identify your thinking style:

So, imagine creating a team based on contextual thinking strengths rather than just traditional doing capabilities….