Think Yourself to the Top

What effect can the way you think have on your future career? Will you achieve your professional aspirations solely by working hard and a bit of good luck? Fiona Beddoes-Jones explores how your preferred way of thinking may have an impact.

Research has shown that when students were asked to imagine themselves thinking like mathematics professors they achieved significantly higher scores in maths tests than comparative groups who had not been asked to think in that way, suggesting that when you imagine yourself thinking 'like' someone else, you may indeed think more like them.

So how do successful Chief Executives think? Research by Cranfield Business School in the UK has identified that the most effective Chief Executives have a cognitive preference for Strategic Thinking with the flexibility to focus on relevant details.

Research by Cognitive Fitness Consultancy shows that the most effective leaders and managers work hard to become 'cognitively fit', i.e. better able to employ the most appropriate thinking strategies for the task at hand.

How do you learn to be cognitively fit? In order to develop effective thinking strategies you first need to understand the different ways in which you naturally prefer to think and the effect that this has on how you approach tasks and interactions with colleagues. Thinking styles preferences can be heard in the language that people use and are evident in the behaviours they adopt.

Your cognitive drivers

These are your highest thinking preferences.  They may sometimes be considered your cognitive strengths and will be highly appropriate in certain circumstances, although possibly not in others.

Although your cognitive drivers may sometimes be considered to be your cognitive strengths, in certain situations at work or with certain colleagues, they might also be considered disadvantageous.  For example, a manager who has a high strategic focus might overlook critical details and conversely, someone who thinks in a highly detailed way may lack strategic understanding.

Cognitive development areas

These are elements of your thinking which tend not to be beneficial to you at work.  It is very rare for someone to have no cognitive development areas. Paradoxically, if someone's profile indicates too much flexibility they may sometimes become paralysed and take no action. By always being able to see both sides of an argument, they can find it difficult to decide which option to choose.

Your cognitive motivational profiles

This comprises those elements of your thinking that you generally find to be motivating within your working environment.  If you want to increase your satisfaction at work, think about what types of thinking you find energising, enjoyable and motivating and evaluate to what degree your cognitive motivational profile is being fulfilled.


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