Macro vs. Micro Thinkers and Why Your Company Needs Both

Whether you’re naturally a “big idea” person or you’re a stickler for the details, as a business owner you know the importance of seeing the whole picture.

At Big Sea, we believe taking a broad view of the marketplace helps us identify opportunities for growth and improvement and set a vision for the company that helps us achieve our clients’ goals through an agile digital marketing strategy.

But we wouldn’t accomplish half of what we envision without the detail-oriented, nitty-gritty, micro thinkers we depend on. Chances are, your company wouldn’t either.

That’s why it’s vital to understand how both macro and micro thinking contribute to an organization’s success.

Abstract representation of macro vs. micro thinking. Two people look at each other. One envisions a galaxy, the other a single illuminated light bulb.

What is macro vs. micro thinking?

If we use the terms “holistic thinkers” and “specific thinkers” we start to see the benefit that both types of brains bring to an organization.

Macro, or holistic, thinkers like to look at the big picture: at longterm goals and overall structures. They tend to think outside the box, and their ability to make connections across two or more seemingly disparate concepts can result in surprising solutions and creative campaigns. Their passion and vision can inspire affinity and motivation in their team

Micro, or specific, thinkers tend to focus on the how of a problem. They’re experts in efficiency, processes, and systems. Because they’re laser-focused on the specifics they can identify potential gaps or pitfalls in a new process or plan. They may also have a tendency toward goal-completion, which can make them excellent managers and motivators.


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Why do teams need both micro and macro thinkers?

Like “micro-manager,” the term micro-thinker can carry a negative connotation. It sounds like small thinking, or focusing too much on superfluous details. This can lead some folks to think that macro-thinking must be the goal, and that micro-thinking is something to be corrected.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

You need both types of thinkers in order to come up with the big ideas that will move the needle for your company and make sure those big ideas are implemented correctly and efficiently.

You need your micro thinkers to help the macros track time, manage projects, maintain budgets, and organize workflows and system processes. And you need the macros to plan strategy, continually innovate, and drive growth.

The secret to micro and macro thinkers working together

Now that we’ve established that both types of thinkers are equally valuable, how do you get them to see eye-to-eye when they view the world so differently?

The answer is: you don’t.

To successfully create a cross-functional team of holistic and specific thinkers, you need to do two things first. You need to identify and recognize the thinking types on a team, and you need to validate the contributions of both.

Identify your thinkers

Listen to how your team members approach a problem, how they resolve conflict, even what details they notice on a project. Find your holistic and specific thinkers, and those rare folks who seem to be a bit of both. Create teams that push these folks to work together.

Once your team recognizes the benefit your combined macro/micro thinking brings to your company, the next step is to create a culture that rewards the contributions of both.

Then, ask the team to come together and acknowledge their individual thinking styles and how each contributes to the success of the team. This sounds straightforward, but the truth is that people are… well, human.

Validate the way they think

Macro thinkers may feel they’re being encouraging when they tell micro thinkers to “be more creative” or “think outside the box,” but it’s actually invalidating their teammate’s way of thinking. It sends the message that their contributions to the team the very way they think is inferior.

Instead, welcome micro thinkers into brainstorms and ask them to present the challenge and their solutions as they understand them. You may be surprised at the results. Micro thinkers are just as capable of problem-solving and ideation as macro thinkers, but they come to a challenge from a very different perspective. That’s a good thing!

Similarly, you can expect a certain amount of pushback from macro thinkers when it comes to following processes step-by-step. It’s tempting for a micro thinker to view this behavior as lazy or showing a lack of commitment, but that’s an equally invalidating perspective. Instead, micro thinkers need to reframe the way they see their macro counterparts in order to recognize their unique contributions. And remind your macro thinkers to show gratitude and appreciation for the sometimes tedious work micro thinkers do keeping everyone on schedule, on budget, and on track.

The key here is validation. Once your team recognizes the benefit your combined macro/micro thinking brings to your company, the next step is to create a culture that rewards the contributions of both. You may need to champion this new culture at first, but there are a lot of tools available that make recognition and gratitude easy and fun.

See the forest and the trees

At Big Sea, we’re experts at both strategy and execution. We take the long view by sculpting brand identities and shaping longterm digital strategy. But we never lose sight of the details when we’re crafting keyword-targeted content and responsive, user-friendly websites.

Contact us today to find out how our macro and micro thinkers can boost your company’s strengths and accelerate your growth.