Nonlinear Thinking

We are conditioned to think linearly. Linear thinking is so ubiquitous, many of us don’t recognize it as one type of thinking. We think of it as, simply, thinking. Linear thinking enables us to design, build and deploy software. But it can not resolve systemic issues. For systems, we need to think nonlinearly.

Though we may be brilliant software developers, product managers or strategic leaders, when it comes to nonlinear thinking, we are all blocked by two obstacles:

One: By default, we are spectacularly terrible at nonlinear thinking*. We are constantly tangled up in our opinions, cognitive biases, fears, assumptions, linear conditioning and logical fallacies. They seem real and true to us. Skillfully and consistently untangling ourselves requires practice.

Two: We don't know that we are terrible at it. In fact, the worse we are at nonlinear thinking, the more certain we are that we are good at it!

Therein lies a paradox: We need to be good at nonlinear thinking in order to see that we aren't good at nonlinear thinking. Fortunately, as Carl Jung said, “Only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life.”

In this workshop, we will "comprehend the fullness" with helpful principles and practices on three levels: individual, teams/groups and a system as a whole.

30 mins:
- Practices for cultivating self awareness and improving the soundness of our own thinking. We begin here because what we think and experience is what we'll build. While we'll only have time to do one or two, we'll introduce varied resources to continue exploring.

30 mins:
- The "Yes, and" game. We'll practice collective reasoning by following a few fundamental rules for thinking nonlinearly together. This is a warm up for ...

1 hour:
- "Where shall we begin?" We'll model an interesting (likely familiar) real world systems challenge. In this challenge, there is no linear path to transformation - we'll need to take a nonlinear approach. We'll focus on patterns and relationship as well as blockers, challenges, feedback loops. We can apply DDD concepts or we can mix and match. We won't Solve Everything. But we will create some structured thinking in the midst of uncertainty.

* Nonlinear thinking is also called systems thinking, strategic thinking, pattern thinking, parallel thinking, systemic reasoning and other names.

Diana Montalion

Mentrix: Principal

New York City, New York, United States


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