Boosting Empathy Through Understanding Thinking Preferences with FourSight

"I'll never see people in the same way again..."
How learning about thinking preferences impacts individuals, teams and collaboration.
Yesterday, on a Zoom call, a woman told me, “I’ll never see people the same way again.” She had taken the "FourSight Thinking Profile" for her job, and she wanted me to know the impact it had. “I suddenly saw myself clearly. And I saw my team clearly,” she explained. “I could anticipate how I would approach a challenge and how each person on the team would approach it. It’s increased my empathy quotient for people.”

How can a 10-minute assessment do that? FourSight is rooted in the science of complex problem-solving. For all its apparent simplicity, the assessment is a carefully calibrated measurement tool. It measures thinking preferences. So FourSight sheds light on how you engage in complex, ambiguous situations that need new thinking. Those are often the types of challenges that call for collaboration.

The FourSight assessment and theory is the result of 30 years of research on how individuals and teams engage in problem solving. Gerard Puccio, PhD, "Distinguished Professor" of the State University of New York and author of the assessment, created FourSight to answer a question in his own mind: Why do individuals in a roomful of people respond so differently to the steps, stages and tools of problem-solving process?

It took Puccio six years and multiple iterations to answer that question. The result is the "FourSight Thinking Profile," an instrument that accurately and reliably measures thinking preferences for each of the four stages of the universal problem solving process. A FourSight profile reveals whether you have a high, neutral of low preference when you clarify, ideate, develop and implement.

Today, based on the 6 million data points FourSight has collected on cognitive diversity, we know that nearly 80% of people have distinct thinking preferences. The other 20% have even preferences across the problem solving process. Thinking preferences are places where your energy rises and falls as you move through the four stages of the universal problem-solving process. For example, some people can’t wait to generate ideas, but they lose steam when they develop the details of the plan. Others love planning but drag their feet when it’s time to implement.

“I could anticipate how I would approach a challenge and how each person on the team would approach it. It’s increased my empathy quotient for people.”

Thinking preference measure energy, not capacity. We all have the capacity to do all four types of thinking. In fact, we do them all the time. Where your energy lies will often determine where you pay the most attention.

Last month, someone who participated in a virtual FourSight Reveal workshop, wrote in to ask, “What exactly do you mean by ‘energy?’” Gerard wrote back, “I think of energy in this form as psychological energy, which serves as analogy to physical energy. Meaning the force used to sustain mental activity or motivation.”

FourSight lets you see that energy clearly. It gives you the ability to look through the lens of thinking preference and anticipate how people will approach a problem.

It lets you see yourself.
It lets you see your team.
It suddenly makes sense of people’s problem-solving behavior, even your own.

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Sarah Thurber

Sarah is managing partner at FourSight and the author of The Secret of the Highly Creative Thinker, Creativity Unbound, and Facilitation: A Door to Creative Leadership. Her work helps teams and leaders think creatively, work collaboratively and achieve innovative results.