“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.” — Yogi Berra
Do you favor analyzing or taking action?
The distinction between “Describers” and “Doers” has always resonated with me. I’ve met individuals who are content with being in the abstract, who are driven by analysis and contemplation, and I’ve met those who prefer concrete results and are more prone to taking action.
This mindset difference can lead to “analysis paralysis.”
The distinction between Describers and Doers explains why some people are happy in the abstract, while others are uncomfortable until it’s concrete. It explains analysis paralysis. I thought of the people I know that are happier to share castles in the mind or explain or think through a problem than act on it (describing versus doing.)
Natural Thinkers and Natural Doers
Edward de Bono’s book, Tactics: The Art and Science of Success, sheds light on this topic. According to de Bono, “natural thinkers” aim for perfection while “natural doers” rely on intuition and act quickly to get things done.
While thinkers are perfecting, doers are improvising.
de Bono shares a quote from Sir Ove Arup:
“The natural thinkers tends to strive for perfection, whereas the natural doers act quickly, relying on intuition, and they’re the ones that get the most done.”
Thought is Not the Enemy of Action
De Bono argues that thought and action are not separate, but rather there is a continuous synergy between the two.
Both describers and doers use thinking in their own ways, with describers contemplating their ideas and doers using action to gain feedback and test results.
Just because you’re doing, doesn’t mean you aren’t thinking.
de Bono writes:
“It is suggested that some people are oriented toward description, analysis, and thinking, whereas others are oriented toward action. I strongly disagree with this distinction between thinking and doing: that thought is the enemy of action. I have, in fact, invented a word to cover the thinking involved in getting things done: the word is ‘operacy.'”
Operacy: The Art of Balancing Thought and Action
Operacy is a term invented by Edward de Bono in his book Tactics: The Art and Science of Success.
Operacy refers to the thinking involved in getting things done.
De Bono disagrees with the distinction between thinking and doing, and instead believes that there is a continuous synergy between thought and action. He argues that both describers (people who analyze and describe) and doers (people who take action) use thinking, and that thinking is not the enemy of action.
Instead, he suggests that action informs thinking, and that thinking is used by both describers and doers to continuously modify and adjust decisions.
Everything Cannot Be Thought Out in Advance
Actions inform your thinking.
de Bono writes:
“Take a decision. Take action. Bring thinking to bear only to modify and adjust and make your decision work. The suggestion here is that everything cannot be thought out in advance, but that there is a continuous synergy between though and action. The suggestion is that you cannot smell a flower at a distance – you have to get up close to it.”
Describers and Doers Both Use Thinking
Describers and doers both use thinking, but doers are using action to get feedback and test drive their results.
de Bono writes:
“… I agree that that too much thinking along old lines will not lead to innovation. I am also inclined to agree that there are ‘describers’ and ‘doers.’ It is my experience, however, that thinking is used by both groups. I feel it is very dangerous to pretend that doers do not use and have no need for thinking.”
Thinking Alone is Not Enough
de Bono makes his point sharply by saying how scientists and engineers had proven that human-powered flight was impossible because a human couldn’t generate enough horsepower to raise a plane off the ground.
Then Paul MacCready did it successfully because he didn’t know it was “impossible.”
I believe that what the mind can conceive, the body can achieve, but results also inform the mind of what’s possible.
When I see someone stuck in analysis, I simply think to myself, “ah, a describer.”
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