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Technological Forecasting & Social Change xx (2006) xxx – xxx

Thinking styles of technical knowledge workers in the systems of innovation paradigm
J.E. Amadi-Echendu
Department of Engineering and Technology Management, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa Received 23 March 2006; received in revised form 6 September 2006; accepted 7 September 2006

Abstract The management of technology embodies human choice and freedom, and as such, it may not detach from philosophy and psychology, particularly in the innovation, knowledge and learning paradigm. This paradigm heralds knowledge workers in systems of innovation with renewed emphasis on information and intellectual capital as the primary assets for production. The thinking styles and cognitive preferences for technical knowledge workers are pertinent for sustaining the interrelationships between economic and environmental, social and political, science and technology agents, institutions and organisations. Based on a 2005 survey and descriptive statistics of primary data obtained from 330 respondents, this paper provides a review of cognitive mechanisms while discussing the ranking of preferred thinking styles for engineering and technology management in the new paradigm. Logical, problem solving, conceptualising, analysing and interpersonal thinking styles were ranked in the top five by a judgemental sample comprising engineering, science and technology oriented professionals in supervisory, middle to senior management positions. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Thinking styles; Behavioural preferences; Technology management

1. Introduction It is widely acknowledged that the context of systems of innovation implies increased exploitation of information, knowledge and technology. This context is also used to describe the modern era for cultural, economic, environmental, and socio-political development. Extrapolating from an OECD definition [1], innovation includes the application, creation, diffusion, transformation and use of new {ideas, forms of organisations, methods, practices, processes, products, services, systems and technology}, to foster economic development and growth, to generate wealth and prosperity, and to uplift cultural and social well-being.
Tel.: +27 12 420 5793; fax: +27 12 362 5307. E-mail address: joe.amadi-echendu@up.ac.za.

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With globalisation and the ongoing transition to the systems of innovation paradigm, information and intellectual capital have become the primary means for production, as well as the key differentiators in economic, environmental, social and political development. Information and intellectual capital assets are fundamentally embedded in cognitive human beings, and considering the portability of information and readily mobile nature of intellectual capital, this makes knowledge workers the crucial resource for competitive advantage [2]. By force of circumstances, the systems of innovation paradigm and the challenges of globalisation provide impetus for the command-and-control management doctrines (cf. [3]) of the preceding industrialisation and mass production era to be reconnected to the fundamental disciplines of psychology [4] and philosophy. While psychology relates to the study of mental characteristics and human behaviour, philosophy encourages critical thinking and debate on issues related to human choice, freedom and value. Thus, the thinking styles and behavioural preferences of technology managers, their motivation [5], roles [6] and responsibilities are significant issues for the information, innovation, globalisation, knowledge and learning generation. In his view of engineering as ethics, Sjursen in [7] argues that the responsibility of engineering and technology disciplines in the globalised economy ‘goes well beyond technical and empirical’ but, must equally embrace the interrelationship between technological expertise and human values, with renewed regard to aesthethic, cultural, educational, environmental, economic, health, religious, resource allocation, safety, and sentimental issues. The global dimension for systems of innovation also means that knowledge workers operate as highly mobile specialists or generalists with outreach far beyond geo-political boundaries. With so much of the knowhow that underpinned the preceding era of industrial production in explicit form, the challenges for managing highly mobile knowledge workers in the innovation era require better understanding of human mental processing modes. In the new systems of innovation dispensation, the cognitive preferences of knowledge workers of every persuasion take on a new significance, and this is also true for practitioners in Engineering and Technology Management occupations and professions. Considering that engineering and technology managers may be viewed as a special subgroup of knowledge workers, if so, what cognitive preferences should they adapt to and adopt, and in particular, what attitudes should they exhibit as pertinent agents of the innovation generation? The rest of the paper includes a brief introduction to the concept of systems of innovation, knowledge and learning interaction in Section 2, and occupational cognitive preferences in Section 3. The ranking of thinking styles is presented in Section 4 with a discussion on the ramifications for cognitive preferences in engineering and technology management summarised in Section 5. The descriptive statistics of primary data presented in Section 4 arises from a 2005 judgemental survey and feedback obtained from 330 respondents. The respondents were supervisory, middle to senior level managers and generally had engineering, science and technology orientation. 2. Innovation, knowledge and learning 2.1. Systems of innovation Using the abstract form illustrated in Fig. 1, the concept of systems of innovation may be concisely described in terms of a knowledge value-chain comprising three broad recursive subsystems and associated linking processes that include: a) discovery and invention of ideas; b) development, diffusion and proving of ideas, and conversion into new forms of knowhow and knowledge; and
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Fig. 1. A conceptual view of systems of innovation.

c) transformation of ideas, information, knowhow and knowledge into acceptable commercial, economic, environmental, and socially valuable outcomes. The outputs from knowledge-based systems of innovation range from information, knowhow and knowledge to valuable products and services. In order to generate these outputs, systems of innovation must be energised, linked and sustained by behavioural forms [8] which are generally delineated into public and private agencies, institutions, and organisations of various business persuasions. Fundamentally, it is the knowledge workers within these behavioural organisations that energise the linkages and sustain the innovation value-chain from discovery, through development, to acceptable valuable outcomes. As primary assets for the systems of innovation paradigm of economic development, knowledge workers define, govern and structure the interrelationships between the various organisational forms. They do this via networking activities, whilst concurrently deploying their competencies, enthusiasm, experiences, and skills to produce the desired outcomes. Networking induces learning interaction among knowledge workers across discipline, vocational and sectoral boundaries in systems of innovation. In turn, learning interaction between the networks facilitates knowledge articulation, absorption, creation, diffusion, transfer and transformation between economic, engineering, environmental, socio-political, science and technology agents, institutions and organisations.
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Knowledge articulation, absorption, creation, diffusion, transfer and transformation may thus be defined as the key attributes of innovative capacity. Hence, the foundation structure of systems of innovation is formed from the coalition of knowledge workers within networks that cut across disciplines, vocations and sectors. The coalition of knowledge networks may be arranged such that they reside within the various forms of agencies, institutions and organisations. 2.2. Knowledge workers in systems of innovation Whether as individuals, agencies, institutions or organisations, the critical issues for behavioural components in systems of innovation include adaptation, growth and sustainability in an environment strongly characterised by rapid, and oftentimes, disruptive changes. Perhaps a way to overcome these challenges may depend on the synergistic integration of information, knowhow and knowledge with the cognitive preferences of individuals in agencies, institutions and organisations. The synergy required in the new dispensation to integrate information, knowhow, and knowledge towards innovative outcomes may demand wider cognitive mechanisms and extended mental processing capabilities, and begs to question current perceptions of thinking styles in engineering and technology management. As summarised in the editorial by Green and Aiman-Smith [9], ‘humans working together must find effective ways to create and sustain the flow of ideas, information, decisions and tasks’ that lead to innovative outcomes. With respect to information and intellectual capital mobility, computing and communication technologies are providing the major impetus for knowledge networking between the behavioural components (see Ref. [10]), continually changing the composition, dynamics, manner of operation, and the structure of systems of innovation. Engineering and technology managers form part of the wider social and societal networks within which the patterns of interrelationships between the behavioural components determine innovative capacity (cf. [11]). As a subgroup of knowledge workers, Lichtenthaler [12] points out that the cognitive preferences of engineering and technology oriented professionals are crucial for the management of technological change and technology intelligence processes. 2.3. The knowledge worker and cognitive overload The knowledge and learning imperative of the innovation generation imposes rapid adaptation to a dispensation characterised by high levels of uncertainty, novelty, emotion and time pressure, increased complexity, saturated multitasking, distraction due to increased interruption from various sources, and increased exposure to seemingly infinite sources of information, all leading to cognitive overload [13]. The implication here is that under such conditions, human cognition can be far from rational, since the active, effortful processing of information and knowledge into innovative outcomes may be influenced by a wide range of non-deterministic sources of bias and error. Faced with such conditions, the tendency for the knowledge worker to minimise cognitive effort through thinking short-cuts sometimes leads to errors in judgement and limited understanding of the impact of management attitudes. A ramification of the overload situation is that engineering and technology managers of the systems of innovation paradigm will require more sophisticated understanding of their own cognitive preferences, so that they can assist their respective organisations to better adapt towards synergistic integration of data, experience, information, knowhow and knowledge towards innovative outcomes.
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3. Cognition and occupational profiles 3.1. Cognitive preferences There is a wide ranging discourse in literature on the relationship between cognition, human behaviour and occupation (see, for example, [14,15]). As reported by Ruiz and Sicilia [16], consumer behaviour in response to advertisements demonstrates the interaction between affection and cognitive reasoning as generators of personal preferences. From a clinical psychology viewpoint, Berle and Starcevic [17] indicate that thoughts and actions are inextricably linked. Whilst providing contextual perspectives on education in materials science and engineering, Östberg [18] reiterates that ‘insight into mental imagery is of value to anyone who wants to understand the relative importance of various kinds of knowledge for the professional competence of materials engineers’. Following from these citations, the basic assumption is that the way individuals feel or respond to stimuli depend on their cognitive preferences and prevailing mental processing modes. This can be extrapolated to mean that thinking styles will precede behavioural manifestations; furthermore, the underlying cognitive dispensation prevalent in the knowledge worker will reflect in the attitudes exhibited in work or social situations. A dominant activity of engineering and technology management is decision-making. Oftentimes, the decisions made by managers reflect on their cognitive dispensation, mental processing modes and habits [19]. For example, the survey results reported by Kirsh [13] reveal that 43% of managers think that important decisions are delayed because the ability to make decisions is affected by cognitive overload. Baron's [20] conceptual treatise on cognitive influences on entrepreneurship suggests that understanding patterns of thought can aid entrepreneurs in avoiding failures of business propositions. This can also apply to engineering and technology managers, especially to those with entrepreneurial tendencies. As observed by O'Connor and McDermott [6], a multiplicity of roles is required to successfully implement five critical functions of radical innovation — ‘idea generation, championing, project leading, gate keeping, and sponsoring or coaching’. These functions are embodied in entrepreneurship, hence, entrepreneurial behaviour has become the most acclaimed method for transforming ideas, information, knowhow and knowledge into commercial values. While strategic decisions and tactical choices invariably depend on the type of invention, knowhow, or intellectual property to be commercialised, however, the entrepreneur initiates, the entrepreneurial process nutures, and entrepreneurship sustains the commercialisation of intellectual assets into useful activities, and valuable products and services. To successfully move from the stage of initiation, nuturing, and to sustainance may require shifting emphasis on cognitive mechanisms and critical thinking styles. That is, the influence of a particular thinking style may be different in the different stages of the entrepreneurial processes for converting an idea into a business. As explained by Gabora [21], cognitive shift occurs from associationbased to causation-based thinking as the creativity process moves along the innovation value-chain from discovery/invention, through development, and towards the transformation of ideas, information and knowledge into valuable outcomes. If that is the case, it begs to question what cognitive preferences are necessary in the new dispensation, in order to harness the capabilities of engineering and technology managers towards innovative outcomes? Again, the implication here is that engineering and technology managers will require increasing emphasis on the cognitive aspects of human behaviour to be effective in the systems of innovation paradigm.
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3.2. Thinking styles It has been argued by Zhang [22] that teaching for a balanced use of thinking styles may enhance a student's academic achievement but, whether this will later translate into appropriate behavioural preferences during professional practice is another issue. Frank and Elata [23] suggest that ‘conceptualisation’ as a basis for systems thinking can be developed in the early stages of engineering education. To evolve from the command-and-control management doctrine towards the information sharing and knowledge networking will require managers to continuously adapt to new thinking styles and behavioural preferences. Maccoby [24] supports this argument in suggesting that ‘unless the culture changes’, analysing, energising, synthesising, and humanizing ‘thinking styles will not be adaptive’. Four thinking styles arising from examining management behaviour in medium- to large-sized boardroom situations have been categorised by Kakabadse and Myers [25] as — inspirational, elitist, consensual, and directive. Other classifications of thinking styles derived from a number of widely available psychological testing instruments include analyst, idealist, pragmatist, synthesist, and realist. For example, Culp and Smith [26] report on the correlation between an individual's behavioural preferences (as measured by Myers–Briggs Type Instrument) and perceptions of leadership effectiveness (as measured by Campbell Leadership Index Instrument), as a basis for improving leadership behaviour. The Myers–Briggs Type Instrument has also been applied by Yen et al. [27] to perform a cross-cultural comparison, showing that top management personality types can be ‘associated with organisational environments that exhibit characteristics conducive to’ the implementation of total quality management principles. Partly as a result of basic education and training, there are strong perceptions with regard to the thinking styles of technology management occupations when viewed in the context of the whole-brain model and the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) [28] (see Fig. 2). A number of these thinking styles are also discussed in the “multiple perspectives” approach to decision-making [29]. Tests using HBDI [28] show that “proforma profiles of the mentality of” representative technology management occupations are depicted to manifest in left-brain dominated thinking styles. This contrasts with the profile shown for the entrepreneur which is located in the right cerebral quadrant of the HBDI model, where conceptualising, synthesising, imaginative, holistic and artistic (yes, artistic!) thinking styles predominate. 4. Desired thinking styles for technology management 4.1. Survey of engineering and technology professionals in management positions This section of the paper describes a survey conducted using the HBDI representation of thinking styles as listed in Fig. 2. The main research question and focus of the paper is: What do technology oriented professionals currently in management positions indicate should be the preferred thinking styles for future technical workers in the systems of innovation paradigm? The survey questionnaire was based on the premise that engineering and technology management practitioners are knowledge workers of the systems of innovation paradigm. Based on this premise, respondents were asked to indicate a rank for each of the twenty HBDI thinking styles on a five-point scale, ranging from ‘not important (rank = 1)’ to ‘extremely important (rank = 5)’. The survey took place between June and September 2005, and data was collected from four groups of practicing engineering, science and technology professionals in two different countries.
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Fig. 2. Whole-brain model and HBDI thinking styles.

The first group comprised senior research and development (R&D) managers in industrial organisations that have collaborated with, or are collaborating with university departments in South Africa on R&D activities. One hundred and fifty of these organisations were approached via email, fax and telephone but only 45 respondents completed the questionnaire during the survey period, thus giving a response rate of 30%. For this group, the questionnaire discussed in this paper formed part of a larger survey on “Research and Technology Commercialisation”, hence the context was not exactly the same as for the subsequent three groups of respondents. For the following three groups, the questionnaire discussed in this paper was handed out directly to each respondent while participating in a workshop, seminar or technical meeting in which the author was present. In total, 312 questionnaires were handed out and the 285 that were returned with a ranking for each thinking style gave a response rate of more than 91%. The second group comprised 204 respondents, predominantly members of the Maintenance Engineering Society of Australia. The third group comprised 52 engineering oriented supervisory to management level employees of a diversified global mining and mineral resources company. The fourth group comprised 56 mid-level to senior management production and maintenance personnel of a large
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mining and chemicals corporation. The respondents in the first, third and fourth groups were from South Africa. The oldest and youngest respondents were 67 and 28 years old with a mode age of 46 years. Over 73% of the respondents had academic qualifications ranging from higher diploma to doctorate degrees, and the remainder had received formal training commensurate with their supervisory and management positions. Every respondent had more than six months experience either in a supervisory, middle or senior level management position. To develop an eyeball insight into the opinions fed back by the respondents, data from the survey is presented here in the form of descriptive statistics. Respondents were not randomly selected and each group represented a judgemental sample that could not only complete the questionnaire but also, supply the necessary data. Therefore, the survey was not carried out on a homogeneous population, hence neither the data, nor each respondent group may be regarded as a probabilistic sample of professionals engaged in engineering and technology management. The implication of the data collection approach is that the summary of respondent opinions may not be generalised to represent the views of the entire population. 4.2. Respondent feedback The consolidated feedback from the respondents is tabulated in the order of preference as shown in Fig. 3, with the colour codes reflecting the ‘whole-brain model’ delineation of HBDI thinking styles. According to the descriptive statistics of the data, the top five preferences indicated by the respondents include (i) problem solving, (ii) logical, (iii) conceptualising, (iv) analysing, and (v) interpersonal thinking

Fig. 3. Ranking of HBDI thinking styles.
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styles (The logical thinking style may be ranked as number one because of the lower standard deviation, eventhough the problem solving thinking style shows the highest mean. That is, there was less disagreement in the rating for the logical thinking style than there was for problem solving). In a manner consistent with the HBDI mentality profiles of occupations, it is re-assuring to observe that the respondent feedback indicates preference for cerebral over limbic processing modes for engineering and technology management in the new era. The results show the top ten preferences to include: • • • • four left cerebral thinking styles — logical, problem solving, analysing, and technical; three right cerebral thinking styles — conceptualising, holistic and imaginative; two left limbic thinking styles — planning and organisational; plus one right limbic thinking style — interpersonal, which was actually ranked above the left limbic styles! This 5th ranking for the interpersonal thinking style is very significant, as it is a deviation from commonly held perceptions for engineering and technology management.

Whilst it can be argued that bias towards left cerebral thinking styles was expected from respondents with engineering, science or technology background, rather, it is noteworthy that the rankings support the view that engineering and technology managers represent a subgroup of knowledge workers. The rankings also indicate increased cerebral processing as the preferred mentality for synergistic integration of data, experience, information, knowledge and skills towards innovative outcomes. Although six out of the top-ten thinking styles re-iterate the perception of left-brain dominance, however, examination of the rankings also points to the desire for more right-brained mental processing modes. The high means and relatively low variances of conceptualising, holistic and imaginative thinking styles indicate behavioural attitudes necessary for technology commercialisation, forecasting and planning activities. The relatively high rankings of the interpersonal and organisational thinking styles indicate the desire for increased emphasis on human behaviour. In the findings of a FutureWorld [30] survey on “what's keeping global executives awake at night”, respondents indicate, among other things, that the ‘need to develop relationship and personal networking skills emerge as key priority for individuals and business’. 5. Discussion The data indicates desired preference for right-brain, cerebral mentality which, according to the HBDI profiling, is representative of entrepreneurial behaviour. The suggestion from the respondents is that entrepreneurship is a vital occupation in the new paradigm. It can be extrapolated to imply that engineering and technology management needs to embrace entrepreneurial behaviour to be effective in systems of innovation. Social and societal networks are crucial in systems of innovation, thus respondent indication for interpersonal and organisational thinking styles is necessary to engender appropriate behavioural attitudes for technical knowledge workers engaged in technology management functions. The ranking of the thinking styles also suggests a new direction for the cognitive dispensation of technical knowledge workers in the systems of innovation paradigm. Although the respondents to the questionnaire do not necessarily form a probabilistic sample population, however, the summarised opinions suggest the following two ramifications for thinking styles of technically oriented knowledge workers of the innovation dispensation. The first is the impact on organisational capacity for knowledge sharing and learning where right-brain thinking styles – holistic,
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conceptualising and interpersonal – may be preferential. For example, adoption of such thinking preferences should facilitate tacit knowledge transfer across disciplines and functions internally in an organisation. Hence, for organisations, this may require further improvement in the psychological and philosophical skills of technical knowledge workers rather than in science and engineering disciplines. This supports the multiple perspectives approach [29], with the implication that organisations should seek to have technology management teams that not only comprise technically skilled people but also teams that are not deprived of, but enhanced with, right-brain thinking styles in their cognitive profiles. The second ramification is the impact on curricula for training technically oriented knowledge workers for technology management positions. A cursory Internet search suggests that many existing technology management development curricula do not include psychology and philosophy but, assuming that such thinking styles are incorporated in curriculum content, and emphasised during curriculum delivery, the real issue becomes how to assess whether learners have adapted to the new thinking styles, and whether the cohort of technical knowledge workers can manifest the corresponding behavioural preferences in technology management practice. 6. Conclusion Further research into these two areas is required — that is, the relationship between thinking styles and organisational intelligence/learning in the one instance; and in the second instance, assessment of new thinking styles adoption rate for technically oriented knowledge workers enrolled in management development curricula. The study discussed in this paper is ongoing as more respondents groups are included in the survey in a bid to approach a probabilistic sample population so that the results may be generalisable in the future.

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Joe Amadi-Echendu is a Professor in the Department of Engineering and Technology Management at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. He received the BSEE (1981) and MSEE (1982) degrees from the University of Wyoming, USA, and the DPhil degree from the University of Sussex, UK in 1990. Following an initial career in academia, he worked in industry for seven years before returning to academia in 2003. Prof Amadi-Echendu's consults and teaches physical as well as intellectual assets management with current research focus on behavioural preferences, knowledge and technology commercialisation. Prof Amadi-Echendu has over 40 publications, received two international Awards in 1996 and registered as a professional engineer in both the UK and South Africa.

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