As many of you know, this blog serves partially to document my short time at Dev Bootcamp (DBC). In just three short weeks of "Phase 0", I've already learned a ton, including how to build this website! I can't begin to imagine how much I will learn in the remaining six weeks of Phase 0, let alone the three weeks each of Phases 1, 2, and 3, which will be full-time, on-site, and totally intensive. This all sounds like a great reason to be completely intimidated. But one thing I really like about DBC is their emphasis on self-reflection and meta-learning. This is why they required me to write a post reflecting on my thinking style and how I can leverage these strengths to strategize my approach to this intensive learning experience.
Just before starting the DBC program, I was asked to take a personal thinking style questionnaire. The assessment comes from the work of Anthony Gregorc, who developed the aptly named Gregorc Mind Styles. His framework describes the way our minds work across two dimensions: Perceptual Quality and Ordering Ability. Each of these dimensions has a binary-based spectrum, which we will discuss one at a time. Before we get into each spectrum, however, it is important to note that with Gregorc Mind Styles, no one is completely one thing or the other. We may tend toward one end of a particular spectrum, but this does not mean that we never engage in the other type of thinking.
This spectrum is based on how we take in information. Concrete thinking involves taking in information through the five senses: touch, sight, taste, sound, and smell. When we use our concrete abilities, we are working with what is literally right in front of us, or the "here and now". Those who tend toward concrete thinking often communicate in a direct way. Abstract thinking deals more with what we can imagine or intuit beyond what is already there. When we use our abstract abilities, we come up with new ideas. We are able to conceptualize "what might be" rather than "what is". Those whose comfort lies mainly in abstract thinking may communicate in a subtler manor than their concrete-thinking counterparts.
This spectrum deals with how we tend to organize information. Sequential ordering follows a logical approach to thinking through information. Sequential organizers follow a linear path. These thinkers tend to like having a plan and sticking to it. Random ordering arranges information into non-ordered chunks. This type of thinking allows us to skip some steps or start from the middle or even the end and still produce quality results. Thinkers who tend toward random ordering often prefer to live impulsively, rather than planning out every moment.
I scored the highest as an Abstract Sequential (AS) thinker. Interestingly, I tied for second in Concrete Sequential (CS) and Abstract Random (AR), with Concrete Random (CR - my opposite on both spectrums) as a distant fourth. Okay, well maybe that was just interesting to me. Anyway, it solidified my suspicion that I have a strong preference for both Abstract and Sequential thinking. When I do stray from the Abstract, I at least maintain Sequential ordering. Similarly, when I engage in Random chunking, I tend to cling to my Abstract thinking. You won't likely see me displaying the characteristics of a Concrete Random thinker.
So now that we're thoroughly convinced of my AS tendencies, let's talk about what that means. AS thinkers tend to learn best while working alone, but with access to relevant experts and other references. We like to solve problems logically, analyzing thoroughly before making decisions or beginning to act. When we are asked to work with others, especially those who might have different views from our own, we like to feel that our ideas have been heard. It is difficult for us to work within time constraints when we want to thoroughly digest the subject. We have a hard time with repetitive tasks and find too many rules to be cumbersome. We also find it difficult not to monopolize the conversation when working in groups.
Armed with a firm understanding of my thinking style preferences, it's time to plan out how I will approach my remaining time at DBC. And of course you know how I love making plans!
As I go through the rest of the DBC program, I need to make sure that I take into account my strengths and potential weaknesses as an Abstract Sequential thinker. For instance, I need to make sure I set aside some time to create a game plan on my challenges. I also need to take advantage of my teachers, peers, and other resources, such as the vast interwebs! I need to get comfortable taking breaks to step back and look at the whole picture if I'm lost. I know that I need to be able to see the larger path in order to jump into the problem. So if I'm getting stuck, I need to remember to step back and revamp the big plan.
As I mentioned previously, my thinking style preferences help me to thrive when I'm working alone. But pairing will be a huge part of DBC, and potentially of my future work environment. Fortunately, I do tend to play nicely with others. I'm just going to have to learn to be honest with my pairing partners (and with myself) about my tendency to dominate conversations. I will have to actively invite input to make sure that I'm allowing my partner to contribute equally to the project. Additionally, I need to talk openly with my pairing partners about my preference for planning. If they are the type that likes to dive in and start trying things, I will need to be flexible. I understand that there are benefits to this type of approach, so I'll need to flex some new muscles to try to strengthen my ability to work this way. Which brings me to my final point...
Prior to my first assignments at DBC, I was asked to do some research on Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets. To have a Fixed Mindset is to believe that one's abilities are innate and predetermined. This means that they cannot be changed, and failures serve as evidence of a lack of worth and capability. Those with a Growth Mindset believe that our abilities are learned over time through hard work and intentional effort. This means that failures should be viewed as opportunities for growth. Again, we are certainly capable of exercising each mindset at different times. It is my goal to maintain a Growth Mindset as much as possible throughout the program. My hope is to develop my abilities in the realms of Concrete Thinking and Random Organizing. If I exercise these muscles, I can improve my abilities to work well with different types of thinkers. Additionally, I can learn to thrive even when the conditions are not ideal to a typical Abstract Sequential thinker. This entire program will be a significant exercise in growth, but it will be up to me to determine how many different areas of myself I can improve.