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Recognizing Thinking Styles: George Soros 'Big Pic'

by Frances Coombes(more info)

listed in nlp, originally published in issue 207 - June 2013

‘Life is like a combination lock; your job is to find the right numbers, in the right order,
so you can have anything you want.’
          Brian Tracey

Recognizing someone’s successful thinking style allows you to take that person’s habitual thinking patterns and make them your own.  If you are stuck, or need bigger or better solutions than the ones available to you now then using a big picture thinker’s viewpoint gives you the power to expand your thinking on a situation at will.

Thinking George Soros

Our thinking style and what we focus on affects how we respond to situations in the world.  Our methods of organizing information are patterns of thinking and behaviour which we run which are outside of our awareness; yet they have a major effect on how we respond to situations in the world.  Understanding how someone who runs a different strategy to our own does, helps us build our ability to think flexibly and is the key to expanding your thinking on any topic at will.

The process requires that you look and listen for what these people focus on in a situation. Start to notice how they are seeing the world, and what they are saying to themselves about events.  You are noticing how other people filter incoming information they get from the outside world. (See Frances Coombes latest motivation book, publishers Hodder Headline due September 2013.)

Use George Soros’ Big Picture Thinker’s style

George Soros is one of the richest men on earth.  As a currency market investor he was nicknamed ‘the man who broke the Bank of England’ after what become known as ‘Black Wednesday, when he made $1bn by betting on the devaluation of the pound sterling in 1992.   This may be what brought him to media attention; however much of his behaviour marks him out as an example of an individual thinker, someone who thinks outside of the box. 

The Law of Requisite Variety

“The law of requisite variety states that in any given interaction, the system (or person) with the widest range of (thinking and doing) options will be the one that wins the day.”  (From the theory of systems thinking.) 

Gather Insights and Information

Using a global thinking style will give you lots of insights and information you would not otherwise have gained on a situation. This means that you can scale-up your ideas and resulting projects so that you can enact them on a bigger stage.

There are key questions in Soros’s thinking and self-questioning style which fit what he calls a ‘conceptual framework’.  Although he applies a framework to global financial and economic questions, this type of thinking style works equally well when simplified and applied to peoples’ and organization’s immediate situations.

“I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.”
          Woodrow Wilson       

Thinking Massively Outside of the Box

This short extract of an exercise is fun, insightful and part of a thinking styles matrix I teach on NLP Modelling Successful Strategies course at City Lit Summer School in London.   Using a global thinker’s thought patterns sparks new insights and moves people on in their thinking in situations in which they feel blocked. Trying on the thinking styles of the best brains you can borrow lets you use a superior tool when mining for your own diamonds of ideas. 

Better Solutions, Begin with Finding Better Questions

Choose a situation that you would like to gain a solution, or more insight into.  If you have a real example of your own it is much better, but if not choose an example from one of those listed below. 

Gathering your Evidence-based Criteria

Write your question down first in a sentence or two, so that you have evidence of whether your thinking has moved on or not after the thinking through session is done.

Choose a situation, it can be either specific to you, your community, or a big picture situation.  Examples might be:

  • SPECIFIC - your own: you might want to launch a project, change direction, do something different, but not know how best to proceed;
  • GENERAL - your community’s:  your local authority may want to close a library, a hospital, a valuable service; you need a plan for how you might rally and develop alternative solutions.
  • BIG PICTURE - Your Government:  Neither main parties enthral you, but there is an election coming up.  The smaller parties seem marginalized and some of their ideas radical but they are more in tune with popular thinking.  How do you make a decision?  How do you influence other people to make a decision?  Or how do you make decisions count?

Short exercise 1:  Allow 20 minutes

Now apply the following questions to the situation you have chosen. 

  • Ask the questions out loud, and wait for the answers to come to you;
  • If you do it in a group you will generate more answers than your own and may be surprised at the range of thinking that has taken place.

Question 1 

What am I seeing in this situation that others are missing?’

Wait for the answer to emerge

Question 2

What are the things I am noticing?

Are the people involved, (including me), focusing on the wrong thing?’

Question 3

What sort of behaviour has been happening to hamper finding a good fit solution before now?

Question 4

What is the scope for change? 

Feedback after this part of the exercise

  • Have you any new thoughts or insights into the situation?
  • Have your ideas moved on to another place? 
  • Do you have a solution, or the start of another idea, in mind?
  • Write down how your ideas have shifted.

Many people do not stick with thinking about a challenging situation long enough, because they may find the experience uncomfortable.  If you did not get enough from the exercise, go back and do it again and allow more time to think things through.

Try out different thinking styles

As you become better at trying out other peoples’ thinking styles you may also begin to develop your own strategies.  For instance what would happen if you took 5 or 6 different thinking styles like George Soros’, Warren Buffet, John Major, Desmond Tutu and tested them, and chose your favourites, the ones that worked for you?  What would happen if you took the parts from each strategy that worked best for you and ran them altogether?  I have done this and developed a set of serendipity strips, a low-tech version of what acts like computer software, only it is for the brain. 

Bright Ideas are Ephemeral so Catch Them

Bright ideas are ephemeral and like butterflies can fly away, unless you have a net standing by to catch them in.  My net comes in the form of serendipity strips which I have developed that focus my thinking.

Serendipity Strips

These are small wristbands I can change according to whatever topic I want to focus on.  The strips give me a choice of hundreds of different peoples’ thinking styles I can choose from each day.  I call them serendipity strips because in the same way that people can co-ordinate their wardrobe, I can co-ordinate my thinking, choosing to merge together or swap between 5 or 6 different thinking styles that day. 


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About Frances Coombes

Frances Coombes Advanced Dip CBT/REBT Dip CBT offers one-to-one therapeutic coaching in North West London and on Zoom.  She is a is a CBT/REBT psychotherapist in North West London, a NLP Master Practitioner and Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapist and runs life coaching groups in London and on Zoom.  She teaches NLP at The City Lit in Central London and tutors at the City Lit and Mary Ward Centre in central London on Using REBT for Managing Stress and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). She runs goal setting and REBT coaching groups for vulnerable people for inner London authorities and charities.  

Her most recent book is Motivate Yourself and Reach Your Goals, pub, November 2013, Hodder Headline. Available on and  For extract visit To inquire or book personal development courses contact Frances on Tel: 07818 896 795; 



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