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Get Real

You can dream all you want, but finally you've got to pay the piper—you've got to get real. Look at all that BS you wrote down in your brainstorming sessions—does any of it make any sense? Now you have to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Can we even dignify what you have done before as "thinking?"

Yes it was thinking. There are different types of thinking. In their insightful book, The Art of Thinking, Allen Harrison and Robert Bramson describe five distinct types of thinking. They go beyond the simple dichotomy of left brain, right brain in their more specific classification scheme. On the far right they have "the Synthesist," the far left "the Realist," and in the middle "the Pragma-tist." Between Pragmatist and Synthesist is "the Idealist"; between Pragmatist and Realist, "the Analyst."

If you are a Synthesist, you probably enjoyed Part I of this book, "Dream." The Synthesist likes to play with ideas, to make things up, to deal with chaos, and to link disparate concepts. If you are a Realist, you might have felt uncomfortable with all the BS. (The hard Realists probably stopped reading by now—but I hope not. Maybe you skipped ahead to the good part.) The Realist, as the name implies, likes to deal with unvarnished reality, the hard facts, concrete ideas. (The other thinking styles will be discussed in more detail later.) Each of the five types represents important thinking strategies; the best rocket scientists use them all.

Most people do not fall into the pure Synthesist or pure Realist categories, but there is a tendency for individuals to favor one method over another. If you are a Realist (and are still with me), then this is the part of the book you will enjoy best. You are ready to cut into that long brainstorming list with all those crazy ideas and set things straight. You don't want theory, you want results! You like ideas that work, and (even if you are a rocket scientist) you consider yourself a down-to-Earth person. Yes, imagination is a lot of fun (perhaps), but you really want to get to Mars.

So go ahead, start tossing the fuzzy ideas off the list and see if there is anything real that you can salvage when you're done. Be careful not to be too aggressive, though. Be thoughtful in your analysis. Be willing to give some new ideas a chance.

And be willing to encourage your Synthesist colleagues or boss to generate more ideas. You might find working with a dreamer to be annoying, even painful. It is typical to find Realists and Synthe-sists at odds with each other. Read more about each type in Harrison and Bramson's book. Just understanding that there are different types of thinking—and they are all valuable—should help you to get along.

Even more important, learn to recognize and develop the five thinking skills in yourself. Then you will be thinking like the greatest of rocket scientists.

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