Thinking Styles of the East vs. the West – Are Westerners doomed?


I read a book a couple of years ago titled “The Geography of Thought”, by Richard Nisbett. The book describes how Westerners and Asians think. In particular, Westerners think “in a line” and Asians think “in a circle”. Think of how the act of problem solving is accomplished by a western-thinking individual. Westerners tend to decompose, and abstract a problem until only its key elements, out of context, remain. In this way, a Westerner can study something in isolation, without external influencing factors.

Asians on the other hand look at the object under study in context, and accept that as the context changes, so does the the object under study. This leads to different and sometimes powerful insights that cannot be observed if the object is taken out of its context. Check out the article by David Brooks and Gail Collins here: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/19/western-men-are-doomed/#more-32299.

If you do business in Asia, this kind of knowledge is table stakes.

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