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How compatible are analytic and holistic thinkers?

Do you consider yourself an analytic thinker or a holistic thinker? Are they opposites? (and) Have you ever had a really interesting conversation with someone who's thinking was at the other end of the specturm?

The two thinking styles defined:

"One of the most common distinctions in the literature on cognitive style is between analytic and holistic styles. Analytic thinking involves understanding a system by thinking about its parts and how they work together to produce larger-scale effects. Holistic thinking involves understanding a system by sensing its large-scale patterns and reacting to them."

Personally, I don't think that I fall into one or the other. I overthink, analizing the parts of a the whole (sometimes too much), but then I also find myself seeing the big picture and seeing connections all over the place. I know that literal thinking drives me a bit nuts, mostly because of my sense of humor, and I've had some challenging conversations because of it. But I've also had some really interesting conversations as well. So, what do you think?

9 comments

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Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" speaks soundly to this. He describes what he calls the classic/romantic split. A student of philosophy and earnest seeker of truth, the protagonist, an autobiographical Phaedrus, has worked as a technical writer. In him there is a synthesis of both, mediated by quality and its understanding.

Interesting. Thank you.

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I appreciate holistic thinkers, but I can't actually work with them, they drive me crazy. We can still have a nice symobiotic relationship though.

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OH, CRAP! We're supposed to think now?

Seriously, though, I've had some interesting conversations with a nuclear physisist about a wide variety of subjects. I dropped out of high school in my senior year (1968-69) and got my GED 2 years later when I was in the Marines.

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Both. It's debilitating.

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I CAN do both but people who ID as holistic tend to annoy me to no end. That's mainly b/c around here that DOESN'T indicate a style of THINKING but rather of non-thinking: they're probably Wiccan or some other variety of Pagan Woo, most likely vegan or vegetarian with maybe even more specialized dietary needs/likes-the vegetables have to grown by HAPPY farmers who do yoga every day-snark snark, and they speak like they are that artist on valium (anyone remember him-he used to be on television-Bob Ross?), and always ALWAYS will be found wearing those effing birkenstocks and smelling faintly of patchouli.

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Interesting. Can't they be compatible?

I could be wrong, because I'm only an internet poster, but I think I can think both. E.g. see an eventual outcome of a system as equally as see some of the details of the system. And I can find possible ways the system can be changed so that an intended outcome will be more likely than another. I think so, anyway.

I'm a programmer by profession. Coding is our main tool - understanding systems is required. But, by nature, programmers are problem solvers - big-picture thinking is required.

That's interesting. Another interesting process is Systems Thinking, it is a big thing in education around here right now. I went to the training and it took me a while to get my brain around it, but once I shifted it to problem solving aspects in my brain, I finally got it.

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I think I am somewhere between the two in my thinking as well. I tend to analyze the parts in light of the whole and reacting to the whole big picture, if that makes any sense. I have been to several holistic thinking workshops I find I have a huge problem thinking that way.

What are some things you learned about holistic thinking that made it difficult? I'm trying to understand it better.

@Stacey48 The idea that you must identify the assets and obstacles before addressing the the big issue or project is the first one that comes to mind, I tend to go at things head on.

@HeathenFarmer Me too.

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