Know and master thyself

I’ve found some of the tools below to be useful for developing my self-awareness and ability to work well in groups. This was compiled after a ‘Brown Bag’ lunchtime workshop I ran for my peers in the sustainability Masters program. Maybe something of interest in here for you too?

The Question I asked of those who came along was:

‘How can a diversity of learning and thinking styles be recognized in individuals, and developed as a strength of a group?’

This was discussed in the following way:

  • Acknowledging we have different styles of learning, thinking, doing….
  • Introducing tools to identify and explore these differences
  • Discussing approaches to maximizing the benefits of this diversity

Here are some tools and techniques that were covered in the brown bag discussions. There are many more out there, can you suggest ones that you find useful? If you want to suggest some, it may be a valuable contribution to next year’s class.

Decision-making and prioritising

  • SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). You know what this is…

  • PMI. Plus, Minus and Interesting analysis

  • Force Field Analysis. Good for identifying what is helping and what is hindering you re: achieving a goal, then seeking to maximize the former and minimize the latter.

Studying, reading, organising

  • Mind maps

I have attached another word document with my earlier comments on mind maps, and a mind-map of how to mind-map. There is a book on it in the common room, software for doing it available on the internet, and I have examples if you want to look at how I use them. The creator’s homepage

  • Stephen Covey’s matrix for effective use of time

‘Seven habits of highly effective people’ was the first management sort of book I read, previously ( and still) being highly skeptical about much of it. It was a pretty good one to start with, and I think there is some very useful stuff in it! (the rest of this website is pretty good too e.g. procrastination tips!!) OR This is Covey’s home page I think:

Thinking, questioning and memory

  • Lateral thinking. Term coined by Edward de Bono and is about practical ways to think more creatively. Once you have defined the problem, you can:

Pick a random noun out of the dictionary, then try and see how it (or its characteristics) may help

Reverse the aims, words, subject-object relationships, of the problem and see how that helps

Brainstorm, or mind-map based on the first thing that comes into your head

Come up with an analogy for the problem / situation (e.g. it’s like banging your head against a brick wall), explore and discuss the analogy, then see how lessons from that analogy may help you with the real problem

Say ‘Po’ (provocative operation) and make a random statement in the middle of the conversation e.g. ‘houses don’t need roofs’ and see how that statement might spark some new ideas.

These techniques are not high-probability ways to solve problems, but are very useful when you need to think differently.

  • 6 thinking hats

  • 6 value medals

A way of directing your attention to different aspects of any decision, and consciously examine each aspect.

De Bono’s homepage? Another page with a list of his books

  • ORID (Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, Decisional): a way to ask questions based on the ‘ladder of inference’.

See the attached word document, plus this website

Styles: learning, thinking..

The tools and ideas presented below are useful for understanding yourself and others such that you can learn and work together in a more conscious and productive way. Often these will be done through consultants, but some versions are available on-line or as books.

  • VARK

This is a way to identify if you have a preference for learning via visual, aural, read/write or kinaesthetic means. Powerful when used for presentations or teaching where you will have different types participating.

  • Myer-Briggs

A psychological test that helps identify personality preferences. Often done by an outside consultant for organisations to facilitate greater understanding and improve teamwork

Try it on-line (though I haven’t used this yet)

  • Herman Brain Dominance Instrument

This is another tool for identifying you prefer to think, learn and communicate . For an introduction see the ‘one-minute overview’,’ the white paper’, or the ‘introduction to whole-brain technology’. My personal favourite out of these types of tools.

  • DISC profile

A test to see whether your preferred behaviour style is dominance, influence, steadiness of conscientiousness. See also for a link to a pdf of an example report. When I have done it, this has been quite a quick and easy test compared to HBDI or Myer-Briggs which are more involved.

  • Belbin’s Team Roles

Belbin team roles describe a pattern of behaviour that characterises one person’s behaviour in relationship to another in facilitating the progress of a team. Helps you understand your preferred role, and adjust depending on the group dynamics. Really useful for understanding all types of group work, and what roles may be missing, or really strong in any particular group you work with.

  • Competing Values Framework

This allows you to identify the different roles you may adopt in a group situation based on your school of organizational and management thought OR leadership roles. In the interests of becoming a good leader or manager, you can identify how distinct types of leadership may be appropriate for different situations.

  • Nine types

Another system suggested by Rachelle and Kyle, based on an enneagram check it out at

Further resources and compilations of tools


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