Big Picture Thinking

One of my ponderings, as I have worked with non-native English speaking thesis drafters, relates to the extent that vocabulary limits/determines the categories available for the more general abstractions.

In Whetten & Cameron’s Developing Management Skills, (p.64, 4th ed) the aspect of ‘cognitive complexity’, together with greater capacity for tolerating ambiguity, is raised.  ‘Individuals with a high tolerance of ambiguity also tend to be more cognitively complex’.  The point is made that individuals with greater cognitive complexity tend to have more ‘sense making categories’ than those with a low cognitive complexity.  Then they go on to say:

for the most part, in an information-rich environment, tolerance of ambiguity and cognitive complexity are more adaptive than the opposite characteristics.

Donald Schon, in The Reflective Turn, (1991), p.349, talks of ‘fundamental categories’ in terms of ‘ontology’, and the nature of the underlying story that can be developed to inform a researcher, and particularly while they are observing. and indicates that the availability of a range of categories will be one aspect of developing rigor, in Popper’s terms. (The other strand of the development of rigor will lie in the research approach, and the extent to which it is open to others being involved in esting validity). Schon says:

… appropriate rigor in the study of practice will depend on the researcher’s ability to generate, compare and discriminate among multiple representations of practice phenomena – that is, to formulate alternate causal stories of the phenomenon in question and test their competitive resistance to refutation .. the ontology, or fundamental categories, of an underlying story determines the kinds of observations that must be made in order to disconfirm an explanation derived from that story.

One of the problems for a non-native English speaker, in working with qualitative findings, may then arise from their lack of vocabulary in English, or to what extent, when learning English vocabulary to translate their thinking in their native language, they permit some of the nuances of their native language to be lost in choosing a reasonably well-recognised English word.

As a native speaker, one of the significant tools to aid my drafting is a thesaurus – the collection of like but different terms, with their respective nuances.

Big picture thinking, with its convergent tendency, and creative conceptualising, tend, as I understand it to be one of the hallmarks of academic literacy.