“Great minds think alike.” We’ve all heard this phrase before.  It typically warrants saying when someone has an idea that you were already thinking about.  “Great minds think alike, huh Kirk?”  Think about that for a moment.  If all great minds thought alike, where would we be?  If Alexander Graham Bell thought only as far as Johann Reis’s version of the telephone, we wouldn’t have the voice quality we have now.  What if we could only transmit tones?? Can you hear me now?

Here’s another example: If Mary Anderson thought just like everyone else, she might not have invented windshield wipers.  We don’t have to stick our heads out the window like Ace Ventura when the windshield gets dirty.  It’s not quite as fun to flip a switch, but you get my point.

As I think more about this phrase, this question comes to mind: Wouldn’t hiring managers and recruiters (or anyone that’s part of a team) want someone who thinks differently rather than alike?  Here are the advantages that come to mind:

Thought diversity. If everyone had the same idea, there would be no point in having team meetings, collaborative projects, or brainstorming sessions.  Thought diversity is a crucial part of the team model.

Solution stimulation. People think differently.  One person may have a different outlook or solution for a problem.  If they thought just like you do, the problem could get worse.  Think of these individuals as Solutions Stimulators.

Collaboration. Mentioned above, collaboration is how some of the best ideas come to fruition.  Different people offering different points of view provide a much more in-depth look into the challenge and solutions offered.

So, think about what makes you different, unique.  I’m curious, so I have a lot of questions (I get along great with my friend’s 4 year old).  How are you applying this concept in the job search and on the job?

What’s your take on this common phrase?  Do you think that great minds DO think alike?  I’d love to know.  Please weigh in by leaving a comment below.  As always, thanks for reading.

Views: 535

Comment by Gil Kempenich on January 11, 2011 at 10:28am
Another adage: "we are all unique". Now that's right on target. We have innate preferences, skills that come naturally, early influences that shape us, passions that manifest. We are like snowflakes - no two alike, albeit sometimes similar. I am not sure what is meant by "great" minds. Most of us have the potential for "greatness" - in how we think, create, innovate, solve, relate, engage, embrace, share, etc. And, of course, in different ways. I agree - thought diversity, collaboration and solution stimulation are valuable in achieving order of magnitude results. These are ways that "passion" can be expressed.
Comment by Kirk Baumann on January 11, 2011 at 10:56am
Great points, Gil. Thanks for your insight. You're right - we all have the potential for greatness. Thanks for your comment!
Comment by Boris Stefanovic on January 11, 2011 at 10:59am

The whole adage is "Great minds think alike, but fools seldom differ".


I think a more accurate (but less lyrical) way of phrasing this would be "Fools minds think alike, great minds think along the same tracks". Great minds apply themselves to common problems and goals but differ in the solutions they might conjure up, making your above points (Thought Diversity, Solution Simulation, Collaboration) a meaningful part of the process. As long as they're in control or in the majority progress is possible.

When the ratio of fools to thinkers tips in the fools' favor you get Groupthink, Decision Inertia, and Mob Mentality. 

Comment by Kirk Baumann on January 11, 2011 at 11:05am

Boris - thanks for the comment. Looking at yours and Gil's above, I'm really glad that I'm part of the RecruitingBlogs family. You guys are smart fellas!  I like the way you've both made your own points while tying back to the article. In my book, that's what thought leaders do, so thank you! Groupthink, Decision Inertia and Mob Mentality are all possible when the ratio shifts. It's up to us to keep that from happening! 


Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it very much. Have a great week.


Comment by Kirk Baumann on January 11, 2011 at 3:39pm
Jeff - those are two very good points! Sounds like a smart person. Thanks for the comment!
Comment by Sandra McCartt on January 11, 2011 at 7:14pm
Great Minds delight in thinking with each other.  Mental ping pong if you will, between evenly matched players who enjoy the game almost as much as winning.
Comment by Chad Sowash on January 15, 2011 at 8:48am

"If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn't thinking" General George Patton


Don't get caught up in GroupThink - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink

Comment by Kirk Baumann on January 16, 2011 at 11:33am
Chad - great quote! I have lots of quotes on my walls at work and almost included that one in my post. Thanks for reading and for the comment!
Comment by Dave N. on January 17, 2011 at 2:07pm

Great Minds Think ... Differently!

Kirk, when I saw this title I initially questioned whether I agreed with you.  Then I decided that would be make us less than great minds if I did, so I have to respectfully disagree for reasons of which contain absolutely no substance.


Good article though :)


Comment by Kirk Baumann on January 17, 2011 at 2:12pm
Nice one, Dave. Touche'. Guess you have a great mind!  :)  Thanks for the comment.


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