I see this over and over again… the ability to think in a structured way provides a lot of value, yet it is incredibly rare.
At first I was shocked at how people at work made poor decisions all the time. They weren’t important decisions, ones that had to go through layers of double-verification and those that had good justification behind them. I mean about decisions one usually makes in a flash, such as what to name this file or this wiki page, or how to plan one’s vacation. I realized that people don’t think in terms of categories or hierarchies of ideas; everything is flat in their heads.
The problem with the lack of structure is that human brains can only store so much unstructured information (in my experience between ten and one-hundred items… for me it’s closer to 10), and, of course, unstructured information is not exportable. Which means that while it may be easier to call the file Template, the next person will have no idea what it means because they have no context. If you call it Finance.ReimbursementTemplate, nobody will be confused (namespaces, or naming things by ever-so-specialized sets of prefixes, are one of the most incredible ways to ensure structure).
But structured thinking goes much further than some file naming conventions. I realized that I tend to use my structured thinking approach in conversations (In fact, I think it’s become visceral at this point): I would start with a high level discussion, and then progress to lower levels when necessary.
Personally I found structured thinking to be a great way to address my weakness of poor information retention. I can’t keep too many things in my scratchpad memory so I structure my thought to minimize the amount of information I need to memorize (as opposed to the information I can deduce from the right structure). Structured thinking also prevents one of the most common reasons of unsuccessful meetings — revisiting old points and going in circles: if you start with the right taxonomy, you will ensure that you talk about higher levels of things before you jump to the details. You can prune the tree significantly that way.