Sunday, February 28, 2010

Matching Your Brain To Your Job

I just watched a really interesting video about how an autistic woman named Temple Grandin thinks. She's been very successful at working with animals in large part because she thinks like an animal. While most humans think in words, both Temple and animals think in pictures, so she tends to understand why critters big and small do what they do. The video was really interesting to me, and I recommend watching it.

I think in three dimensions and connections, which I guess Temple might call a pattern thinker, but I'm not quite sure that's right. My brain doesn't think in words or pictures. When I think about a car's engine, I don't see a chunk of metal, I see a bunch of moving parts moving in harmony to produce the the power necessary to move a vehicle. As I think about the sun, I picture all of the particles being pulled together by gravity to exert tremendous forces in the center to fuse hydrogen and release tremendous amounts of energy. For recruiting, I see people not as people, but rather as the sum of their experiences, background, and personality, which helps me decide if I think they'd be a fit for a job (although this process is far from perfect).

Any job that requires massive amounts of reading isn't for me. ADHD makes it difficult for me to learn through reading. In just about any classroom setting, I ask questions - tons of questions - because it's the only way I'm be able to keep up. Literature meant to convey information about rules or policies, such as an owner's manual, is fairly useless to me; I'm unable to take the words and turn them into a picture. News articles are much easier for me to read; the words are intended to describe events that I can comprehend in my mind's eye. About once a year I have this fantasy that I'm going to become a computer programmer, but that's not going to happen until I'm able to find an alternate way of learning; researching poorly written technical documentation is about as fun as using a porcupine to shave my face.

Your brain is wired to think a certain way, and it's up to you to explore what that method is. You're may be interested in things that you're not going to do well in - make these things you hobbies. Other things you'll do really well at, and it's probably got a lot to do with your ability to pick them up quickly. When you spend less time learning and more time doing, you're going to be a heck of a lot less frustrated.


  1. The ethos of this reminded me of this Positive Psych class at Harvard.

  2. Thank you! I just found your blog and it's a great read. I love your description of how you think. I think I think like that too ;) I related to the "great web of context" idea.