This month we are going to change it up a bit and turn towards a different area within the Birkman. Often, we focus on Birkman Interests and Birkman Components as those carry much weight in our lives. While the way in which we solve problems is certainly impacted by both our Interests and Components, we are going to explore our Birkman Work Styles for this discussion.

There are six problem solving styles, paired in two’s, within the Birkman Work Styles: Public Contact/Detail, Global/Linear, and Conceptual/Concrete. It is important to remember that nothing within the Birkman is a measure of skill or competency. Your Work Styles will not tell you how good at problem solving you are, only your preferred method to go about it.

Public Contact and Detail are not as highly related to problem solving as the other four. So, we are going to dive into the other four instead. As a refresher, scores for each pair of problem solving styles add up to eleven. That means if you have a ten Global score, your Linear score will be a one. Essentially, each item within a pair is opposite the other, so the higher you are in one area, the lower you are in the other.

We will examine Global/Linear first:

  • Global: Individuals with high Global scores often prefer to problem solve in ways that involve a more relational or holistic process. That means they prefer to approach a problem with a “big picture” viewpoint. These individuals are often times more tolerant of ambiguity within a problem or when visualizing the future than someone with a lower score. They are more adept at strategizing and discussing the issues thoroughly before making any decisions or acting. Plan first, solve problem later.
  • Linear: Individuals with high Linear scores tend to focus more on logical and sequential analysis when solving problems. Linear thinkers tend to do better with crisis type problems and often find it easier to handle urgent issues with immediate action. They prefer “fixing” problems with minimal discussion and focus on practical and immediate results. Action first, organize a plan later.

As you can see, these two are opposite each other, which is why they are paired. And as you probably realized, it makes sense that the higher you are in one, the lower you are in the other. Sometimes, individuals can have a 7/6 score combination. That means they are comfortable in both situations and will usually use the style they deem necessary for each situation.

Let’s take a look at Conceptual/Concrete:

  • Conceptual: Individuals with high Conceptual scores tend to focus on utilizing their own experience and intuition (dealing in the abstract) to find new and creative solutions to problems. They desire imagination within problem solving and are more comfortable with creative thinking. Creative approach to problem solving.
  • Concrete: Individuals with high Concrete scores will emphasize factual and concrete methods (often based on analytics) to solve problems. They prefer to approach problems logically and are more comfortable engaging in objective reasoning. They often desire numerical data or analysis to make decisions. Logical approach to problem solving.

Often, people feel Conceptual relates more to Global while Concrete relates more to Linear. However, there is no correlation between them, and people score all across the board. It’s important to put both of your own styles together to fully understand your typical approach to solving problems. But also realize that others are different from you and understand there is no right or wrong way. Often it is situational, so learning from those who have the styles you don’t have will only help you solve a wider range of problems.

Here are the simple combinations for your convenience:

  • High Global and Conceptual: Plan first, then solve the problem in a creative and intuitive way.
  • High Global and Concrete: Plan first, then solve the problem in a logical and sequential way.
  • High Linear and Conceptual: Act first, then organize a creative and intuitive plan later.
  • High Linear and Concrete: Act first, then organize a logical and sequential plan later.

Just to throw in Public Contact/Detail, think of Public Contact as talking through the problem out loud with others while Detail is working through the details of the problem in your head or alone.

Think about some recent struggles or problems you had to face and your method of solving those problems. What styles did you use? What else could you have tried differently than your normal methods?

How can you work at becoming more comfortable in your low-preference styles of problem solving?