All the people on this planet have different processes that help them solve problems, make decisions and come up with solutions. Two common ways to look at problem solving are linear and nonlinear thinking. Linear thinkers follow a step-by-step progression that leads them to a solution. Nonlinear thinkers think outside the lines and sometimes use unorthodox methods to solve problems. Each thought process has advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Linear Thinkers
Linear thinkers are often very logical and cite information that they have found useful in the past to solve problems. Because of this approach to the world, linear thinkers often excel in the fields of mathematics, accounting and other technical fields. A linear thinker will likely prefer consistency and be predictable, which makes her excel in jobs that involve processes that are repeated regularly. You will be able to count on the linear thinker to get her work done when it is supposed to be done.
Disadvantages of Linear Thinkers
A major disadvantage of linear thinking is that it does not always account for new variables in a situation. Linear thinking can be a disadvantage in the business world, especially during hiring. For example, a hiring manager might be more comfortable hiring someone who has been in the industry for many years over someone who has experience in a different industry. The linear thinker would assume the experienced candidate would be the best choice, without stopping to think that the second, less experienced candidate might be able to contribute fresh, innovative ideas. Linear thinking can also be a problem when it comes to large groups, as people in groups will vote to stick with what they know over new ideas.
Advantages of Nonlinear Thinkers
Nonlinear thinkers are creative, emotional thinkers. They will think of different ways to do things and come up with new, innovative ideas. Nonlinear thinkers can use their passion for originality to produce transformational products or services. If you run a business that's looking for fresh ideas that will break established patterns and challenge competitors, consider a nonlinear thinker.
Disadvantages of Nonlinear Thinkers
Being a nonlinear thinker has some downsides. Some nonlinear thinkers have learning challenges such as attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or Asperger syndrome, according to the book “Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults.” People diagnosed with these disorders tend to think in a nonlinear way -- so much so that they can be difficult to keep on track, are easily distracted and may need special accommodations. In a classroom or office setting, they may be disruptive or unfocused if not supervised properly or challenged sufficiently. Nonlinear thinkers may miss an easy solution to a problem because they are looking too far out of the box.
- Nelson Education: Linear Thinking
- Dictionary: Linear Thinking
- The Autonomist: Mind-bending Concepts -- Non-linear Thinking
- Eric Brown: The Problem(s) With Linear Thinking
- ADD Student: Non-Linear Thinking
- Target Learning: What Is a Learning Style?
- Google Books: Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults
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