Are You a Big Picture Thinker or Detail-Oriented?

Written By: Eva Rykrsmith
October 7, 2020
4 min read

Editor’s note: This post was originally published March, 2011 and updated October, 2020.

The way a person approaches and interprets a challenge says a lot about how they will solve it. It is not to say that one type of approach is more effective than the others, but more so to say that different people are best suited to solve different types of problems. This means that by understanding the approach you naturally take, you can figure out what type of projects and problems are best suited for your skillset and maximize your impact on the company.

They say that there you’ll fall into one of two types of people – the ‘big picture’ person and the ‘details’ person. The big picture people tend to be creative, strategic, and visionary… but they can also be messy, disorganized, and forgetful. On the other hand, the details people are conscientious, planful, and exacting… but can lack perspective or fail to prioritize. These two types tend to complement each other and work together very well. You’ll often find this division in partnerships and many times the CEO is a big picture person while the COO and the CFO are the details people.

Whether you have good attention to detail or whether you can see the big picture easily and clearly is generally part of your personality. But it can also be a learned skill, if you wish to develop it. There are systems and processes that can help you override your natural tendencies when needed.

Whether you’re a team-member or team-lead, understanding how you and those around you think can help you optimize your team’s problem-solving capabilities and build an environment that fosters continuous innovation.

Unsure what it means to be big picture vs detail oriented? The following are traits that are generally indicators of each thinking type:

Typical of the Big Picture Thinker

  • You can quickly see patterns in complex problems.
  • You like to come up with new ideas and new projects.
  • You have a low tolerance for busywork, tedious errands, and filling out forms.
  • You are great at outlining what needs to be done but filling in the details can feel exhausting.
  • You may have been described as right-brained.
  • When you have taken the Myers-Briggs assessment, you were an N.

Typical of the Details Thinker

  • You think about things in great detail and sometimes miss the big picture.
  • You would prefer to edit or tweak a plan than to come up with it from scratch.
  • Highlighting study notes doesn’t work for you, because you end up highlighting everything.
  • You may have a tendency to over-think things.
  • You have excellent attention to detail.
  • You may have been described as left-brained.
  • When you have taken the Myers-Briggs assessment, you were an S.

Using Your Natural Tendency to Support Innovation

Whether you trend towards big picture thinking or detail-oriented thinking, both skills are essential to forward your company’s innovative initiatives.

Many companies have begun to prioritize digital transformation allow for operational agility throughout their business. According to a recent study conducted by Harvard Business Review Analytics Services, 92% of surveyed business and IT leaders agree that successful transformation requires a dual-track approach, combining transformation at both the enterprise-wide and business-process level. In order to implement this dual-track approach successfully, your company will need to draw from people talented at both big-picture thinking and detail-oriented thinking.

Those who identify as big-picture thinkers might be naturally suited to focusing on larger, more enterprise-oriented projects. Their ability to identify patterns can help them find business solutions that meet the needs of people across departments. They are best suited for identifying and prioritizing these large-scale efforts.

On the other hand, those who identify as detail-oriented thinkers might be naturally drawn to mapping out the workflows and processes that your business relies on day-to-day in order to function. These thinkers are more suited to making sure that larger scale efforts permeate across departments and teams by implementing changes at the business process level and ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.

Developing skills on a low-code application development platform like Quick Base can not only help you contribute to company goals, but also advance your career.

As a big picture thinker, you can turn ideas into action and make a positive impact at your company by analyzing real-time insights to come up with actionable and targeted business solutions. If you’re detail-oriented, you may enjoy mapping out complex processes and implementing automations that saves the company hundreds of hours of manual labor.

Written By: Eva Rykrsmith
Eva Rykrsmith is an organizational psychology practitioner. Her passion lies in bringing a psychology perspective to the business world, with the mission of creating a high-performance environment. Follow her @EvaRykr.

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