The Startup
Published in

The Startup

What’s Your Thinking Super Power?

Its damage control time. That high-profile app or game you released is crashing and users are tweeting bad reviews. Your biggest client unexpectedly issued a press release that she’s going with your biggest competitor. Your boss assigns you to give a presentation to the board of directors — tomorrow.

Think about the ways you would go about resolving these high-stakes, high-stress situations. You may focus on documenting the requisite but highly granular steps — like a check-list. Perhaps you automatically focus on the people necessary to ensure your team’s success. Or maybe you see a bigger picture, developing an out-of-the-box solution to resolve all three problems at once.

Now think about how your teammates would resolve these stressful situations as adrenaline floods their brains. Often these methods are an amplified way we normally work. The problem is that we all work and view the world and its problems differently.

Most of us assume we are seeing the world the way it really is. — Ned Herrmann

The ways we think — Analytical, Sequential, Interpersonal, Imaginative — are each like their own language, with their own way of structuring thought and action. And like languages, meanings can be (and often are) misunderstood, causing discord amongst the team. The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) is but one of several tools to classify, understand, and harmonize these disparate thinking preferences.

Creativity researcher William “Ned” Herrmann developed this standard tool while in charge of the Management Development section of General Electric’s Corporate University in the 1970s. There he observed managers and engineers each leaving training sessions learning something other than the intended curricula.

How is it that managers who attend a training session together, with a single trainer and a common program of instruction, can come away with totally opposite judgments and retain different elements of the program for their individual careers and jobs? — Ned Herrmann

Expanding upon existing brain research, Herrmann theorized that our thinking and learning preferences emanate from one, some, or all four quadrants of the brain: left-right brain lateralization, and cerebral cortex and limbic systems.

The individual, pair, or team answer 120 questions pertaining to activity and stimuli preferences. The HBDI profile is a diagram of the individual’s dominance to one, some, or all modes of thinking:

The HBDI profile is a diagram of the individual’s dominance to one, some, or all modes of thinking:
A. Analytical thinking, B. Sequential thinking, C. Interpersonal thinking, D. Imaginative thinking

What’s Your Thinking Super Power?

Each quadrant has their own set of skills and “super powers”. And everyone uses all styles to varying degrees. However, the diametrically opposed quadrants can appear as detractors:

An Analytical thinker (upper left, Blue) to an Interpersonal thinker (lower right, Red) might appear

  • Rigid,
  • Ruthless,
  • Cold and calculating,
  • Limited by the need for proof/explanation.

While the Interpersonal thinker (lower right, Red) could appear to the Analytical thinker (upper left, Blue)

  • Overly sensitive,
  • Unbusinesslike,
  • Sentimental,
  • Too talkative.

Likewise, to the Sequential thinker (lower left, Green), the Imaginative thinker (upper right, Yellow) might appear

  • Unfocussed,
  • Impulsive,
  • Oblivious of deadlines,
  • Vague,
  • Given to tangents

However, the Sequential thinker (lower left, Green) could appear to the Imaginative thinker (upper right, Yellow)

  • Controlling ,
  • Nit picking,
  • Bossy,
  • Stuck in a rut,
  • Boring

Tower of Babel

How do we create harmony from this antagonism, unite this Tower of Babel? By looking at the Platinum Rule.

There are a myriad of variants of the Golden Rule:


“Love your neighbor as yourself”


never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself

New Testament:

“Do unto to others what you want them to do to you.”

But to truly be effective in communicating our ideas, we need to turn to the Platinum Rule:

Do unto others as they would have you do unto them, not as you would have them do unto you

In other words, we need to employ perspective and empathy when communicating our ideas. Go out of our comfort zone. Rephrase or package our solutions, objectives, views to match our teammate’s style.

Get used to being uncomfortable: discomfort is a sign that the brain is engaged and learning. — Ned Herrmann

Perhaps that means creating a spreadsheet instead of drawing a diagram to help a Sequential thinker (lower left, Green) more effectively work with a Imaginative thinker (upper right, Yellow).

Maybe that means an Analytical thinker (upper left, Blue) should discuss the people affected instead of the most efficient steps needed when engaging with an Interpersonal thinker (lower right, Red).

Engage your Team’s Whole Brain

Your team should be like a well-balanced investment portfolio, balancing risk-takers and risk-adverse teammates. Hopefully your team is diverse and inclusive, including thinking style.

A team will work more effectively if the individual members understand and appreciate the differences in each other’s thinking styles.

Adapting the ways we think, communicate, and interact with others is a key element in ensuring team unity and overall success.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Drew Schillinger

Drew Schillinger


I am a Zen-gineer, coach, manager, and mindful leader whose goal is to encourage and help my teammates succeed in all their endeavors.