This unusual book needs an introduction more than most.
I want to explain its purpose and why I wrote (and drew) it.
The book has two clear purposes: right-brain thinking, and communication.
This may be the first book ever to be written specifically for the right side of the brain — the intuitive side.
I am not aware of any other book with that deliberate purpose.
Its function as a communication system arises from that first purpose, but it can be used independently, and it was this use in communication that suggested the word 'atlas' in the title.
An atlas is a visual reference system, and although thinking is an abstract subject I believe we can create perceptual maps of its use.
Many people are aware of the value and power of intuition: of those feelings and images that are part of thinking but cannot be verbalized.
Over the last few years there has been a good deal of experimental work that has sought to distinguish the operations of the two halves of the human brain.
It is in the left half of the brain that the speech centre is located and this half seems to control our physical activities as well.
In left-handed people it is the reverse.
Left-brain thinking seems to be word-based and to proceed in a logical, sequential manner.
It follows that all books tend to be left-brain books.
The right brain, it seems, is concerned with a different sort of thinking: with images and whole patterns and impressions and what we call intuition.
This sharp division of functions smacks a little bit of Victorian phrenology.
For my part I do not really care whether these 'right-brain functions actually take place only in the right brain or elsewhere.
What I do think is important is the recognition of a type of thinking that is not dominated by language.
Right-brain thinking happens to have become a useful term of reference for this.
I shall also use the term 'image thinking', recognizing that this spans all the way from actual images to undefined feelings.
Anyone who has been to one of my seminars knows that I accompany every thought with an image drawn on an overhead projector.
In the course of a day I might cover five hundred feet of acetate with these images.
They are 'idea pictures' which represent relationships, functions and happenings, not physical reality.
I believe that such images can be more powerful than words for conveying ideas because, unlike words, they exist completely at one moment in time.
A scientist obtains the same effect when he looks at a graph of a complex relationship that would take many seconds to describe in words.
We could describe a chair with a string of words: 'a platform about eighteen inches off the ground and supported by a leg at each corner and….'
We never do this because we have a vague visual image that covers all chairs, and we only need to trigger this image with the single word 'chair'.
When we taste wine we may appreciate the sensations at the front of the mouth, the top, the back and the sides.
We may appreciate the bouquet and the after-taste.
We do not have to verbalize it all.
It is enough to sense the ‘flavor’.
We may form a taste image just as we form a visual image for a chair.
Unfortunately we do not have non-verbal images for complex situations.
The reason is that we have never experienced such situations with any 'sense'.
We have only recognized them intellectually, so there is no sense-image storage.
The specific, and perhaps too bold, purpose of this book is to create a repertoire of just such nonverbal sense-images for management situations.
The sense to be used is that of sight — hence the drawings.
The drawings do not have to be accurate and descriptive but they do have to be simple enough to lodge in the memory.
They should not he examined in detail in the way a diagram is examined, because they are not diagrams.
They are intended to convey the 'flavor' of the situation described.
Such images would be used in right-brain thinking.
This would help us to do right-brain thinking about situations which are otherwise restricted to left-brain attention.
I see a synergy between the two sides: a continual moving backwards and forwards between verbal and non-verbal thinking.
I now come to the function of the book as a management communication system.
In a sense this is its 'atlas' function.
If you know someone has an atlas you can refer him to a page number and grid reference so that he can locate what you wish him to look at.
The images in this book can be used in exactly the same way.
You do not have to remember the images or be able to draw them.
All you do is to ensure that each of your executives (and other businesses you deal with) has a copy of this book.
You then treat it as you would an atlas.
There are no grid references — Just page numbers.
'If we are not careful I can see ourselves heading into a page 164.
'As for Jackson, it is a typical page 99.
'I don't like this new plan at all — see page 98.
'We talk a lot about productivity but it is just page 16 stuff.
'I agree there is an opportunity but that proposal is page 67.
'Is page 182 familiar?'
The comments may be written or spoken.
What are the advantages of such a system in terms of convenience?
It provides a shorthand that can convey very quickly the flavor of a complex situation.
You do not even need the expanse of a postcard.
In fact it is a much better help to communication than a laptop, which only enables people to be even more verbose.
Because the 'atlas' takes responsibility, it is possible to be much more blunt and direct.
There is no need to say things in an oblique way and to beat about the bush.
Signaling a page number is never embarrassing.
This can be important both in negotiations and also in appraisals of performance.
The Repertoire provides a convenient labelling system for some standard management situations.
The person sending the communication has to clarify his own thoughts in order to select the most appropriate image.
This may be the most important aspect of all.
The system can be used in group discussions as a third party reference system.
It can be used as an aide memoire when a person is thinking to himself about a situation.
The images act like questions: 'Is this the case here?'
For a long time I have been convinced that the business world uses more thinking than any other world.
This is inevitable both because of the rate of change and also because of the need to make things happen.
There are always things to be done:
problems to be solved;
opportunities to be discovered and developed;
ventures to be conceived;
projects to be organized;
forecasts to be made;
assessments to be assessed.
The thinking is very different from that in the academic world or even the scientific world where times does not matter and coasting is easy.
As I have written on other occasions, I have been impressed by the motivation of business executives with regard to thinking.
Of course there are executives who believe that seat-of-the-pants experience is enough. :(
Of course there are those who believe that business is a matter of collecting data and sorting it. :(
Nevertheless there are a considerable number who do believe in the importance of thinking.
Many of these, in turn, believe that there is nothing that can be done to improve thinking and that their personal intelligence is quite sufficient anyway;
but there are others who have just as much confidence in their thinking skills but who accept that thinking is an operating skill and like any other operating skill it can be improved through direct attention. :(
In routine and semi-routine operations experience probably is the best master.
But running up and down a groove successfully does not get one out of the groove.
There was a time when grooved thinking was enough.
Sustained economic growth endorsed traditional methods that were reliable and sufficient.
In a changing and competitive world more and better grooved thinking may not be enough.
Innovation and creativity are important but that is not what I am writing about here.
What I am referring to is a broad range of operating thinking skills: in short all the thinking we have to do if the groove can no longer do our thinking for us.
In particular we need a great deal of conceptual thinking, for in the end the success or failure of a business rests on its concepts.
A concept may only take a few seconds to design but the lack of a good one can mean the failure of a billion dollar corporation.
It is the more successful organizations that sense the need to develop further thinking skills because they attribute their success to their thinking.
The less successful ones see no need because they blame their failure on circumstances.
A few years ago I coined the term 'operacy', which is the skill of getting things done, of making things happen.
I believe that, in education, operacy should be treated on an equal basis with literacy and numeracy.
Traditional education is much too concerned with descriptive thinking because there is an odd notion that from a full information field the right action automatically emerges.
To my mind the most dangerous fallacy in education is the belief that intelligence and thinking skill are the same thing.
It is dangerous in two ways:
firstly because it follows that the intelligent need no training in thinking
and secondly because such training would be pointless for the less intelligent.
Unfortunately highly intelligent people are not always effective thinkers.
So much so that in our work in the Cognitive Research Trust in Cambridge we have coined the term 'intelligence trap' to describe thinking habits which may actually put the intelligent youngster at a disadvantage.
For example, the person who can articulate and argue well can seem to justify any perception, and as a result his thinking effort is directed towards this argumentation rather than to the (more important) perceptual exploration.
There is a growing awareness that even the intelligent need to pay direct attention to thinking skills.
Once we decide to pay direct attention to our thinking skills — instead of regarding them as an automatic part of our intelligence — there are many things that can be done.
There are techniques both in lateral thinking and in basic thinking skills that can be practiced and used.
Software for the mind is no less valuable than software for computers.
Mathematics, itself, is a software system.
This book can now be seen against the background of what I have written above, as an attempt to create a visual meta-language for situations.
I believe it to be worth doing.
The more we enrich our perception the more powerful it becomes.
As computers take over more and more of our thinking, perception will always remain the most important part.
The clarity with which we see a situation is the basis for any subsequent decision or action.
That clarity is not built up piecemeal but obtained through a flash of recognition.
We do not measure the length of a friend's nose in order to recognize his face.
It is this type of recognition that the book aims to help.
Sometimes we call it intuition.
Atlas of Management Thinking
1 Clash, Confrontation, Argument Or …
2 A Sort of Ritual Dance
3 Trumping With a Fact
4 Different Values
5 Different Objectives
6 Different Perceptions
7 Both Sides Are Right
8 Arguing About a Matter of Principle
9 Destructive Arguments
10 Doctrinaire Argument
11 Constructive Argument
18 Structural Fault
19 No Flexibility
21 Structural Improvement
23 Yes Decision
24 No Decision
25 The Effortless 'No'
26 The Yes Effort
27 An Easy Decision
28 A Difficult Decision
29 A Decision That Is Not Obvious
30 A Weak Decision
31 Decision For Choice
32 Coping With An Obstacle
33 Refusal To Make A Decision
35 A Counter-Productive Decision
36 Consultation For A Decision
38 A Political Decision
39 On Target
40 Poor Aim
44 Shifting Target
45 Intermediate Targets
47 Bring The Target Nearer
48 Broaden The Target
49 Information And Problem Solving
50 The Factors Involved
51 Combining Elements
52 Define The Problem
55 Solving The Wrong Problem
57 An Approximate Solution
58 Break Down The Problem
59 Working Backwards
60 Self-Created Problems
62 Hidden Opportunity
64 Crowded Opportunity Space
54 The Shallow Opportunity
65 False Opportunity
66 Sensing An Opportunity
67 False Entry
68 Delayed Reward
81 Block The Old Route
84 Staged Transition
85 Transition Channel
86 New Entry Point
87 Setting An Objective
89 Rear-End Objectives
91 Vague Objectives
92 Alternative Objectives
93 Short-Term And Long-Term Objectives
94 Contradictory Objectives
95 Wrong Fit
96 Inadequate Fit
100 Combined Fit
101 Standard Units
102 Adaptive Reception
103 Wide Uncertainty
105 Degrees Of Gloom
106 Accelerating Disaster
107 Stable States
109 Bumpy Ride
110 Base-Line Drift
111 Wilder Fluctuations
112 Multiple Scenarios
116 Incomplete Plan
124 Conflicting Plans
126 General Exploration
127 Broad Front
129 Finding Support
133 Come Together
134 Putting A Question
139 No Communication
142 Different Languages
147 Field of Communication
150 Bankers' Risk
151 Investors' Risk
152 Speculators' Risk
153 Broadway Risk
154 Insurance Risk
New Venture Investment
161 Steady and Predictable
162 Front-End Investment
164 High Technology
166 Hidden Costs
168 Total Fit
170 Almost Suitable
178 GoIf Tee
179 Mutual Support
181 Edge Problems
186 New Roots
189 Posing a Question
191 Other Viewpoint