Directional vs Binary Thinking in Organizations

If you are leading a business or are part of a team operating a business there are different types of thinking patterns that will develop.  Some of the thinking patterns can be detrimental while others can be beneficial for the company.  Brené Brown in her book, dare to lead, discusses the dangers of binary thinking which stops people from working to their best potential.

With further research, I discovered that directional thinking is a much better option for businesses.  However, directional thinking is a much more fluid way of operating that requires a lot more vulnerability and openness amongst the team.

Before I go into discussing the two main types of thinking I want to define what I mean by the terms binary thinking versus directional thinking.  Binary thinking has two sides, hence the term, "bi." It is looking at issues as being right or wrong, requiring a yes or no outcome, being a good decision or a bad decision, or having a start and a finish time.  These are the black and white thinkers of our world that have difficulty living in the grey zones.

Directional thinking is a pattern of thought that works on moving the discussion forward, moving a step closer to a solution.  It doesn't necessarily go in a straight line.  The decisions are in the lighter grey versus the darker grey areas.  It is looking at situations as opportunities to learn or experiment.  It is operating in the "ish" areas - smart-ish, safe-ish, right-ish, wrong-ish, finished-ish.

Contrasting binary vs directional thinking in organizations

If the company is set on getting the operations of a company going, they are going to be working on creating business strategies and thinking of ways to develop a product and to deliver it in a set time frame.  However, if the company is focusing on marketing it is looking at the actions needed to promote the company and the product. In marketing, the company has to look at the customer needs and desires and how you can address those needs with your product.   It is showing the customer how you are different from the competition and why they should buy from your company.  Then the company has to decide how they will price the product and distribute it to the market. But a successful company has to be able to do both together, not one exclusively.  This is where directional thinking is beneficial as it works at moving both areas forward at the same time.

There are creative people in organizations that can see amazing ways to benefit the company, but they may not be able to effectively see how to bring the dreams to life.  The company dreams can be killed at the finance stage, because as we all know, money is needed to bring the dreams to life. People with binary thinking could limit he creative thinkers to quash their dreams because the finances cannot support the whole dream.  A creative thinker could sink the company financially because they cannot realistically get where they need to be without finances to back it up. With directional thinking, creative people need to be encouraged to realistically look at the dreams they have and work at seeing what the financial impact would be.  They need to be challenged to stretch themselves and reality-check themselves, while the financial people need to develop in the areas of taking more chances and risks.

This one is pretty much self explanatory.  The goal for directional thinking is knowing when to save and when to spend. It's knowing how much debt load the company can carry and that will differ depending on what projects are being worked on.  Binary thinking can stop the growth of a company at crucial times. For example, if an influx of money is needed to develop the next stage of the company, but a saver is at the helm of the company and is not willing to get a bank loan contrasted by a company that has a good product but a spender has overextended the companies resources.  All viewpoints must be taken into consideration for a well balanced approach.

There are many people who use their emotions to help guide them as they make decisions in life, whether it is solving problems or decision making.  Some people would refer to this as following "gut feelings." These feelings have developed to help people protect themselves from bad situations and lead them into good situations. The danger of only thinking with your gut is that you can miss important details that are needed to make a well informed decision or finding that following your gut actually was the wrong decision at the time.

Analyticals tendency to overthink things.  They are the math and science types of people who thrive on logic.  They are the people who have a firm grip over their hearts and rely on their heads to make a well informed decision.  They will research a subject until they have a firm grasp of all the ins and outs surrounding it. They will attack problems in a systematic way and logically look at any task placed before them. They are usually very organized and methodical and will follow the same routine over and over again.  They are the people who need to make an agenda and then follow the agenda that was laid out.  They are not able to "fly by the seat of their pants," so to speak.

The dreamer is able to be creative in their minds and many entrepreneurs are dreamers; they dream of owning and operating their own company instead of working for someone else for a wage.  According to John C. Maxwell, "A dream is an inspiring picture of the future that energizes your mind, will and emotions, empowering you to do everything you can to achieve it." It is people's dreams that give them energy to move forward.  Dreamers are often enthusiastic but can lose site of the pitfalls that they may face on the way to reach their goals.

Whereas a rationalist - which some people refer to as "stick in the muds," are people who base their actions on well researched opinions and facts and shy away from any emotional responses. When someone asks you to stop being a "stick in the mud" they are asking you to be more flexible in your thinking and attitude towards the given discussion.

According to Brené Brown, "The big danger of binary thinking- is that you aren't leveraging the fullness of people and can force them to stay in confining roles instead of encouraging them to take chances and risks." If you use a directional thinking it is helping everyone utilize a growth mindset.  Everyone can learn new ways of operating and thinking. You are always changing and developing as you are faced with new experiences.  The goal is to have a balanced approach where you can be both optimistic and also realistic.  You can be a dreamer but also do reality checks to make sure that the dreams can be backed up by facts.



Works Cited

Brown, Brene. dare to lead. USA. Random House. 2018