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Thinking Habits

Thinking habits are about the ease with which you learn and develop, as a result of the way you think. They determine the degree to which you master your own things, whether you learn and develop something easily or if you don't master it.

Sometimes you may ask yourself: is this development, which we ask of our people, actually realistic? or you notice that several years of investing in a certain development of your people (or of yourself) doesn't pay off enough. Have you ever wondered what that has to do with? Looking at issues like these is helpful from the perspective of 'thinking habits'. But what exactly are they? and what can you do with it?

What are thinking habits?

Thinking habits are about the ease with which you learn and develop, as a result of the way you think. They reflect the steps you take in your mind, how you respond to what's going on around you, how you form your opinion, how you sort things out, compare opinions, and the like. Thinking habits determine the degree to which you master your own things, whether you learn and develop something easily or if you don't master it.

In comparison with learning preferences: these provide insight into the way in which and the context in which someone likes (or doesn't like) to learn and develop. They say nothing about what someone easily learns and develops, what they stumble over and what it has to do with or about what's a feasible development, for an individual and for the organization. In addition to learning preferences, we therefore also use thinking habits.

Consider the desire to develop innovativeness among librarians or the focus on results among civil servants. Not impossible, but difficult and that has to do with thinking habits, among other things.

In the core:

- thinking habits about the way you deal with issues, new information
- are they situation bound; they're related to mood, task, routine, tension,...
- thinking habits aren't right or wrong, but they do form a quality or obstacle in a particular development
- do they've a relationship with function and profession; in one subject, certain thinking habits fit better than the other.

It's important to take into account that:

- not all thinking habits can be developed for everyone
- change them under tension (under tension, someone often shoots back into old habits)
- you always have the choice to develop or organize the desired situation (when development proves too difficult).

Why use thinking habits?

Because this allows you to work more specifically on the development of yourself, others and the organization, with less frustration, less time wasted and more effective use of resources. This also helps to develop with more pleasure, realism and respect for yourself and others.

What are the six thinking habits?

Thought has six building blocks, which can be arranged two by two. Together they form the thinking habits.

- The first pair (conformism and construction) is about the question where you get your hypothesis, your solution direction.
- The second pair (intra-action and interaction) is about examining the robustness of this hypothesis: does it hold? Does it cut wood?
- The third pair (re-production and reflection) is about realizing your idea; executing, adjusting and monitoring it.

We go through the thinking habits briefly.

Compliance and construction

When we've to solve a problem, we get our ideas from somewhere. The question is: how do you arrive at a specific solution direction?

We may like to use existing ideas. In that case, you look for the best fitting existing solution. We call this a conformist way of thinking. It provides traceability. In conformity, the way in which information is stored in our head can be characterized as a filing cabinet. The more accurately ordered, the more careful the search process and the better fitting the solution. But also: the more time it takes.

It could also be that the way our head is organized looks more like a junk attic: you come across all sorts of interesting things and use them. Sometimes you simply find what you need immediately (one question, one answer), and sometimes you come across diverse pieces of information and combine them. We call this construction. The more unexpected combinations, the more creative the solution. We then speak of a high construction. If this runs out of control, it becomes inimitable for a conversation partner.

The result of both thinking habits is to come up with a first mindset, a hypothesis. Conformism and construction both have advantages and disadvantages.


- The key is: choosing the best available alternative
- Qualities include: traceability, implementation power
- Bottlenecks include: difficulty with own profiling, rigidity, lack of innovation


- The core is: making new combinations, actively using inside information
- Qualities include: creativity, giving your own color
- Bottlenecks include: difficulty in working together, tendency to invent the wheel

Intra-action and interaction

The next question is: how solid is the hypothesis you've formed? Will this hold? We can investigate this in two ways.

The first is to examine the hypothesis in yourself. By walking around it in your mind and lighting it from all sides. We call this intra-action. People who use this a lot can analyze large amounts of information very sharply. The disadvantage is that these people are perceived by their environment as closed, not 'in connection', 'he doesn't really hear or see me'.

Another way to cement the hypothesis is to ask others for their opinion. Finally, to weigh up all opinions. We call this interaction. People who use this are often experienced as interested interlocutors. They easily create support. However, this quality can also lead to delays (many conversations) and difficulties in making decisions.

The result of these thinking habits is to achieve firmness in the solution direction. Intra-action and interaction both have advantages and disadvantages.


- The key is: to investigate the solidity of an idea in conversation with yourself
- Qualities include: sharp analyzes, unambiguous decisions
- Bottlenecks include: tendency to talk against people rather than with people, difficulty creating support


- The key is: to investigate the strength of an idea in conversation with others
- Qualities include: connecting people, process skills
- Bottlenecks include: difficulty with decision making, chaos

Re-production and reflection

Finally, it's about realizing the chosen solution; executing, adjusting and monitoring your plan.

Do you do this in a way in which the plan made provides guidance? Do you assume that you've thought about it long enough and now it's mainly about the implementation? In other words, deal is a deal - deal is deal? Then there's reproduction.

Is the plan in particular a tool, do you assume that the world continues to move and that it's therefore important to move and adjust? Then we speak of reflection.

Reflection and reproduction are a kind of cockpit skills. They supervise the total. Reproduction is traceable, but can also become rigid. Reflection is flexible, but can also be detrimental to the focus on results.

The result of these thinking habits is the realization of a solution. Reproduction and reflection both have advantages and disadvantages.


- The core is: realizing the established plan
- Qualities include: pragmatism, focus on results
- Bottlenecks include: limited flexibility, difficulty with innovation


- The core is: monitoring and adjusting the chosen approach
- Qualities include: flexibility, organizational sensitivity
- Bottlenecks include: sticking, difficulty in achieving results

All thinking habits and their mutual combinations show their added value in different situations.

What's the use of thinking habits?

Working with thinking habits yields all kinds of insights and benefits. Among other things, they help to think better about what's feasible in individual and collective development and thus to focus energy, time and money.

On an individual level

The first layer of questions for which thinking habits can be helpful are all questions in which you want to do something about your own development on an individual level. For example: "I really need to do something about my profiling or communication skills." We tend to want to develop something we aren't good at. But the question is: is there also a reason why we're not good at it? Thinking habits help you to think about this and to better focus the energy you use in your development.

At the collective level

But thinking habits don't just make sense for individual issues. They also provide a service at the organizational level. For example, consider the following:

- With recurrent sighs around a certain (function) group: Why do 'they' always hang around like that?
- In cultural processes, in which certain core values ​​have to be developed, such as 'connection', 'entrepreneurship' and 'focus on results'.
- Organizational developments that are too obvious, such as 'our specialists really need to become more communicative'.

Thinking habits also help to reflect on this and make the energy and activities that are deployed more effective, so that unnecessary money isn't wasted and development is done with respect for people.

How developable are thinking habits?

Thinking habits can be developed. However, the question is how desirable is it that we develop certain thinking habits?

Particular attention for 'development points'

We tend to pay close attention to what we can't do in learning and developing. This phenomenon is clearly recognizable in:

- individual learning and development. Think for a moment about competence thinking: what's the desired profile? How do you "score"? and which competencies should you pay attention to? or working with learning objectives: if you ask people what they would like to learn or develop, they almost automatically choose the things they aren't good at.
- but also in organizational development, such as cultural processes and leadership development. The reasoning that can be found underlying such processes is often: we should actually be more innovative, or more result-oriented or more interconnected, or variations on the theme. It's often striking that these types of processes don't lead to permanent results. As a result, organizations continue to keep a certain core quality on the agenda as a desired development.

Thinking habits challenge these issues to look for the underlying qualities. What thinking habits do people in the organization currently have? Could the desired new behavior be the flip side of this medal? Is it wise to want to develop this, or could you organize it better?

Example: innovation in the library

It makes sense, for example, if the management of a library is oriented towards innovation, to give the organization a chance of survival. The average librarian, on the other hand, has the qualities that are necessary to organize in order to work transparently and to store information in a traceable manner (conformism). Developing construction may be a nice challenge for some of these employees. If they move in this direction, it's likely that their conformist thinking will deteriorate. It's also plausible that for others (customers and managers) the development of their innovative strength (more construction) leads in particular to frustrations.

The key question is therefore: do you want to initiate this development or develop it for everyone, but not organize it, then are you looking for another solution that empowers people?

Another example: Tom's thinking habits

Tom is a real starter. In that start, he's characterized by the use of a lot of creativity (construction is therefore a pronounced quality). Depending on the situation, the possibilities or the phase of a development, he can very well balance the ideas in conversation with himself or with others (intra-action and interaction are therefore both in his repertoire). But it isn't a finish. So if the idea enters the realization phase, it would rather be lost than rich (neither reflection and reproduction are comfortable habits of thought).

The opposite habit of thinking about your quality is rarely easy to develop. Let's go back to the previous example: you shouldn't ask Tom to think more within frames, to reuse ideas, to plan well and to think in a traceable way (that is diametrically opposed to his quality: construction). Sometimes, however, a habit of thinking is private, but not at work. At such moments you can learn from your own way of problem solving: how do I do that at home, and how can I do it at work? These insights can help us further in developing our learning ability.

Feasibility of a behavioral change

Basically, the feasibility of a behavioral change is related to thinking habits. So it isn't that one competency is easier to learn than another, but rather that one competency is easier for a specific person to learn than for another.

Incidentally, the fact that something isn't or difficult to develop doesn't mean that it's also 'not feasible'. Here are some tips:

- Be selective: Does everyone need this new behavior? Can people help each other?
- Organize it!
- Are there tools to use?
- Take your time and be patient.
- Look for situations elements of the desired behavior are displayed and explore them! (learn to learn 'from' yourself)
- Realize that relapse is likely during stress.

Do you match with the desired profile?

In addition to a favorite profile (what really suits you?), There's also a 'desired' or 'suitable' profile for a position. No hard guidelines can be given in this, but with a number of examples it's possible to indicate what the idea is.

For example:

- From project managers is expected that a task within a certain period of time and will be completed in a particular financial framework. That means a certain amount of reproductive thinking is desirable here. Too much reflection can lead to endless adjustments to the plans. Incidentally, this also depends on the type of project being worked on and the team in which you work.
- An account manager is expected to be able to think along with a customer, while keeping an eye on the interests of his own organization. So it's about being able to negotiate, knowing what you can give away and what not. Translated into thinking habits, this requires a certain amount of construction. As a 'negotiator' you've to have built your own image and know 'which stones can be removed from the wall, without the wall collapsing'. If we're talking about an account manager in a large organization who links the customer and the product, construction can get in the way, because new solutions aren't desired or don't fit within the organization. In that case, conformity is important.

By carefully examining the requirements and wishes of the organization and function, a reasonable estimate can be made of the desired profile.

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