Recently, I had the honor of speaking at Foxx Galerie in Zurich, Switzerland on the topic of how cognitive styles can impact the workplace.
Did you know that your way of processing information (also known as your cognitive style) can affect your job performance?
Your cognitive style has a direct impact on:
- Leadership skills
- Interpersonal skills
- How you learn, solve problems, and make decisions
- Ability to work within a team and with different groups of people
- Ability to transition from one task to the next
- Ability to adapt to change, especially in a fast-paced work environment
- Fulfillment level at work
A cognitive style is neither right nor wrong; however, there may be aspects of your cognitive style that help or hinder you at work.
The Bottom Line
Understanding your own cognitive style can help you improve your leadership and interpersonal skills, help you adapt to the challenges you face at work, and make you happier with your job.
For employers, an awareness of the different cognitive styles can help you understand your employees better, as well as determine whether an employee (or prospective employee) is the right person for the job, or if they’re a good fit for your company culture.
How do people process information?
Your cognitive style is your preferred way of gathering, processing, and evaluating information. It influences how your brain scans different environments for information, how you organize and interpret that information, and it ultimately guides your behavior.
There are several different cognitive styles; however, in this article, we’re going to focus on two general categories: Analytical and Intuitive.
Analyticals prefer logic and an ordered, linear focus on detail. The key word here is analysis. Analyticals can be split into two styles:
1) Knowing Style – This person prefers logical, impersonal information processing. They value accuracy and making informed decisions based upon a thorough analysis of facts and rational arguments.
2) Planning Style – This person is attracted to structure, searches for certainty, seeks feedback from others in more powerful positions, and prefers a well-organized environment. They like to make decisions in a structured way and are mostly concerned with process efficiency (being able to measure the degree of success of a process).
Intuitives take a holistic approach, viewing an environment or situation as a whole. Their word is synthesis. Intuitives or Creatives tend to make decisions based primarily on intuition, relying on objective data as a secondary approach. They often seek feedback from a broad range of sources.
What’s your preferred style?
Humans are complex beings, and most of us are capable of both the analytical and intuitive forms of reasoning. So while most people aren’t 100% one or the other, they are likely predisposed to or prefer a particular cognitive style. And even then, the degree can vary from person to person, like on a continuum.
Those who fall in the middle are called adaptive thinkers.
Cognitive Style & The Workplace
Here’s a workplace example: An analytical person may want all the details of a project laid out in an email or phone call, while an intuitive type may be comfortable with less detail and more ambiguity. Too much information might overwhelm the intuitive, and too little will frustrate the analytical.
Understanding your coworkers’ cognitive styles (as well as your own) can help teams convey information more effectively.
Research has shown, and it stands to reason, that the more closely related a person’s cognitive style is to the task demands at work, the better their job performance will be.
This can be very helpful for people in leadership positions. Understanding the proper placement of employees so their cognitive style aligns with the demands of their position will help them be more productive – and happier – which of course benefits the organization as a whole.
Develop the Skill of Cognitive Flexibility
It’s important to develop the skill of cognitive flexibility (also called executive functioning). People who lack cognitive flexibility are more rigid in their approach and therefore unable to adapt to certain environments. This can affect your work life AND your personal life.
Cognitive flexibility allows you to:
- More easily adapt to change
- Step outside your preference to see another’s perspective
- Transition from one task to another
- Problem-solve in an efficient, flexible manner
- Think before you act
- Adapt to a fast-paced changing environment
Someone with cognitive flexibility has the ability to reason and process information using both the intuitive and analytical types and will be able to draw upon the skills necessary for a given task.
The great news is, thanks to neuroplasticity, our brains have the capacity to learn and change at any age!
Determining Your Cognitive Style
There are several methods for measuring cognitive style, including:
- CSI – Cognitive Style Index
- COSI Index
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
- Kolbe Learning Style Inventory
The methods I use to help people improve their cognitive flexibility include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
If you’re interested in discovering your cognitive style, or improving your performance at work or in relationships, please contact me! I have offices in New York City as well as Zurich, Switzerland.