Do you remember the Buddy System in grade school? When you went on field trips, you were likely assigned someone to be your “buddy” for the duration of the trip. You were accountable to one another to ensure you both arrived safely to your destination. The buddy system is also frequently used in combat scenarios and risky adventures for hikers or climbers. The two buddies act as one in order to protect and complement one another for a successful outcome. One key benefit of having a buddy in these kinds of scenarios is you have two people with unique perspectives identifying and weighing risks, thereby increasing your chances of avoiding life-threatening mistakes.
Why don’t we see more of the buddy system design in the workplace?
Imagine using the buddy system as a tool for better thinking. When making a big decision, or working your way through a tough problem, you can call on your buddy to help you identify assumptions, alternatives, and blindspots. The old adage “two heads are better than one” is absolutely true, but those two heads are infinitely more effective when their thinking styles complement one another.
I employ the mental buddy system every day. I’ve identified 3 buddies whose Thinking Styles (according to the My Thinking Styles assessment) differ from my own (Analytical and Timely). While I tend to be rational, and focused on the details that need to be accomplished within a given deadline, I lean on my buddies who have Inquisitive and Insightful thinking styles to help me see the bigger picture, connect the dots, think about future consequences, and brainstorm alternatives.
Conversely, when those buddies have a new idea, they tend to come to me to identify what needs to happen next. I can easily identify key players and resources that need to be activated and chart out a timeline for accomplishing the goal. Thanks to my Thinking Styles, my brain naturally generates a working to-do list as I’m processing my buddy’s big picture idea.
My buddy and I work as a team to complement one another’s natural thinking styles and fill in the gaps for better outcomes. And in the process, we learn from one another to improve our thinking in the future. We are able to anticipate the tough questions the other person will likely ask when called upon.
The more we become aware of alternative thinking styles and the value they add, the harder we work to break out of the groove created by our natural thinking styles. The Critical Thinking Buddy System opens up to asking more questions- different questions than we normally would.
Who do you rely on to challenge your thinking? Do you have a “Thinking Buddy?”
To take the My Thinking Styles assessment for yourself for free, click here.
Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens. She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.