Samantha loves her job. She enjoys interacting with customers and meeting their needs. She does a great job when the issues and their answers are clear. But Samantha struggles when something unexpected happens and she needs to think on her feet. She can follow an established procedure, but when there’s a gray area, Samantha freezes.

Brian, Samantha’s boss, is frustrated. “When Samantha gets in unfamiliar territory, she comes to me for every answer. I need her to use her own judgment,” says Brian. “Our work is not ever going to be predictable, and Samantha needs to be able to adjust and respond independently.”

Supervising linear thinkers can be challenging. These employees often struggle with fast-paced change. They need to adapt, be dynamic and both respond and anticipate. But how do you help them do that?

  1. Maybe you can’t! Is there a role that is less ambiguous, with clear procedures and rules? That job may be a better fit, and your linear thinker will thrive in this methodical, rational role.
  2. To some extent, people can build lateral thinking and find new solutions by looking at things in novel ways. They can practice judgment-free brainstorming, explore irrational ideas and options and engage in creative pursuits. But don’t expect linear folks to become fluid and habitual lateral thinkers.

It may help linear thinkers to tap into their childhood curiosity and spontaneity. “Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart” (Meng-Tse).

Tell us about how you support and encourage all kinds of thinkers. Comment below or message us here.