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How Managers' Minds Work

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How Managers' Minds Works

by James McKenney and Peter Keen

This was a very complex article that is defining a framework to solve the problem of communication between managers and management scientists. To help define the problem the authors do some defining and layout some of the experiments and the results. They then make some suggestions to help communication between these separate cultures.

They first define 2 different modes of cognitive style; Information gathering and Information evaluation. These are then broken down into 2 types of thinking styles or approaches. Information gathering has preceptive individuals and receptive thinkers, and Information evaluation - systematic individuals and intuitive thinkers.

For information gathering, Perceptive individuals basically go in with some precept and look for conformity or deviations to confirm the data or solution. While receptive tend to try to find the attributes of information by direct examination. For Information evaluation, systematic individuals like to structure their approach to problems while intuitive like to test things out, gather the results and form an idea of the problem.

To confirm their cognitive styles assumption they designed an experiment that basically took a sampling of MBA students and showed that individuals tend to have a definite style to problem solving. They correctly theorized that systematic and intuitive thinkers approached the same problem but in very different styles. The systematic would create a plan in their minds and would try to create the problem by defining how to solve it. The intuitive jumped around trying different methods and showed a pattern of rapid solution testing. In the second test, they took the sample and classified it towards a certain thought pattern (systematic/intuitive) and then analyzed their corresponding MBTI scores. The results showed a definite pattern between systematic and MBTI "thinking" style, while intuitive was of the "feeling" category. As a side note to this study there was a mild relationship between systematic and "introversion" and intuitive style and extroversion, which I found interesting but not a surprise. A year after the MBTI study they performed a final study. They looked at cognitive style verse career choice. They found that systematic chose jobs in administrative careers, military, production, planning, control and supervision. Basically careers with a lot of structure, while intuitive took less structured or more open ended careers like psychology, advertising, teaching and the arts.

Using the results of these 3 tests they were able to validate their cognitive style theory. Now that they have laid some ground work into thinking styles and patterns of thinking, they then start to analyze the different styles of managers and management scientists. The systematic management scientist may try to reduce the unknowns and define it very explicitly; his aim is at a complete model that has predictive power. While the intuitive manger looks for the unknowns and uses them trying to make sense of the problem. The authors state that intuitive managers, "approaches problems not with a desire of analytic process but to discover what he can trust in order to make useful predictions."

The authors' suggestions for help would be if the model building, systematic scientists would create the model in terms of process rather than output, managers would be able to use the model more effectively. Often managers are not concerned with the model itself but only the output and would rather run a few tests to validate against preconceived results. In complex systems managers may not have enough time



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