Jan De Visch – On Forms of Thought

I find deep thinking to be a practiced and difficult effort. It’s easy to get stuck in a particular world view and can take a certain discipline to step outside of it.

I recently interviewed Jan De Visch. His work examines the thought forms that people use and how that relates to collaborative intelligence. What is a thought form you ask? To quote Jan’s book, Dynamic Collaboration:

Think of your mind as a fishnet, and the world as an ocean of complexity far transcending the reach of human thought. What you can catch depends on the form and structure of your net. Our thinking is embedded in thought forms, by a process very similar to that by which the fisherman’s expectation of the shape of the fish she is after becomes embedded in the design of the net she casts out to sea.

Jan defines four distinct types of thought forms:

Context – how an issue is part of a broader context
Process – how an issue has developed until the moment it presents itself
Relationship – the totality of an issue and its embedded relationships
Transformation – the ability to sense the disequilibrium and instability inherent in every system

Jan De Visch is the Executive Professor of Human Capital Management at Flanders Business School in Belgium where he works on the alignment of accountability design, performance management, and talent development. His many years of consulting experience covers a broad range of industries from financial services, construction, government, consumer lifestyle, chemical, healthcare, utilities, energy, and telecom. He also serves on the board of directors of global companies in construction and media.

Jan’s overarching point is that people often fail to consider the quality of thinking and spread of vertical development levels within a collaborative group. By bringing awareness to these two dimensions, groups can move into a kind of meta thinking that brings them together and this is the basis of collaborative intelligence. By working with thought forms at this level, we begin to see that “what we think” and “how reality works” might be different.

We cover a lot of ground in this interview. After our call, I asked Jan to demonstrate some of his process on my work with Sutra as the subject. We went through a second call where he interviewed me and then reflected on the interview process. For those interested in learning more about his method, I highly recommend listening to the second segment of this podcast. And, of course, if you’d like to go deeper, then get it from the source: his book, Dynamic Collaboration.

Please enjoy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *