Higher-level thinking isn’t something only scientists, inventors or writers enjoy. All of us, including executives, have the capacity to increase mental functioning — especially spatial intelligence — to enrich our lives. Four thinking dimensions affect the way we experience and communicate with the world around us, and each dimension contributes to the process of creative problem-solving and brilliant thinking.
Dimension #1: Executive Height (Sequential Processing)
This thinking is what we do when we process facts in sequential order. The thoughts and language are linear, step-by-step. Verbal height means using concepts framed in words. It aims at using logic and reasoning to think constructively, rather than at simple fluency or vocabulary recognition. Thoughts and words are immediately tied to a specific tangible, known, observable designation of things thought about and referred to. Although objects and things are not physically present, our verbal height will construct pictures in our mind. Verbal height is sustained with strong reading, writing, listening, and speaking capabilities.
Dimension #2: Executive Width (Quantitative Processing)
This thinking is symbolic and quantitative reasoning, i.e., the ability to digest and process large amounts of information to solve problems via symbolic assistance. These thinkers appear much broader with good mathematics skills. Thoughts and words no longer have to refer to specific tangible, known, observable entities but are used as true symbols. They are construed and symbolically worked with as though they themselves were things. Like Sherlock Holmes, we can look for quantitative clues and can verbalize possibilities which we have in mind even though we have not yet found them.
This second dimension uses symbolic, quantitative, and numeric information and reasoning to digest, tackle, and solve problems to help make informed decisions — and verbalizes possibilities by means of symbols and numbers which come to mind through quantitative investigation, analysis and trending, and evaluation.
Dimension #3: Executive Depth (Spatial Processing)
The thinking here uses abstract operations for integrative workings. As three-dimensional thinkers, we question the validity and merits of two contending options and formulate a new alternative, integrating the best from the options. Our thoughts and words can seem abstract in the sense that they refer to other thoughts and words rather than to things. Abstract thoughts and words put ideas together, but they must be able to move above conflicting ideas and be related to tangible things more than once removed. These intangible thoughts and words can be used for coming up with solutions to problems only if they reach thinking beyond their symbolic word-content, to real things. If they don’t, they are merely hollow abstract words and concepts.
To be truly three dimensional in thought and words, we must be able to use those thoughts and words not only to form coherent propositions but also to illustrate them concretely in terms of observable examples, by way of intermediate one- and two dimensional concepts. The word is essentially a three-dimensional living laboratory, one which should allow the thinker to be self-regulating, creative, and inventive.
Dimension #4: Executive Inventiveness, Decisiveness and Direction, Speed and Velocity
This thinking-processing insightfully creates new theories, global and complex systems, and decisive directions. The four-dimension abstraction of thoughts and words is about spatial speed in the sense that at this level there is a lot of reformulation of contemporary thought and language.
In a global economy, we need thinking flexibility with rapid micro and macroplasticity and decision-making ability. Being flexible allows us to see challenges from multiple perspectives, allowing others to question and test our underlying formulations about problems and issues, and facilitate the generation of an array of possible solutions. Four-dimensional-thinking executives are expected to have a high-level of conceptual plasticity capacity to stand a better chance of understanding and articulating new insights on issues and problems at a systemic level.
Making and executing sound decisions in an atmosphere of increasing time pressures, uncertainty, conflicting advice, and in crisis situations poses the highest challenges for any executive, but it’s where a four-dimensional thinker will rise up to the challenge required in the four-dimensional level of complexity. Here, a deepening ability is needed to view more perspectives or parallel systems and more variables simultaneously before execution. To the extent that we can take a backfield vantage point, where personal, business and network systems are perceived together on the playing field, we can enter the fourth dimension with a communication of content that provides the learning and questioning necessary to help others move beyond their current, limiting levels of capacity.
When we are fluent in four thinking dimensions and in processing flexibly between them, we can go and light up the world with unique and creative ideas and inventions that only a brilliant mind can contrive.