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Learning Styles

Learning Styles: Global or Analytical

March 3, 2013 by Dr. Jon Warner in Learning Styles

Think about how you tend to make sense of new information that you are trying to learn. Do you tend to do this analytically by breaking down information in a more linear, step-by-step, or logical way, or do you prefer to look at the “bigger picture” and conceptually put new information into perspective at a higher level or more globally?

Understanding how individuals like to synthesize their learning and how they extrapolate the learning for their own theoretical or practical use is important and to help put this into two simple categories we can say that individuals tend to prefer either a “global” or an “analytical” approach or preference. Let’s therefore look at these preferences in a little more detail.


Global learners generally want the big-picture or the broad concepts. Although global learners make up around 55% of the adult population, most formal learning (like school, college and management short-courses) tends not to cater for global learner needs. Highly text based manuals, logically argued lectures and information bullets on overheads all appeal to the analytical learners. If you are a more global processor (and such people are in the majority) this is a problem and they often therefore need to ask more often for the big-picture with statements such as: “How does this fit into the grand scheme of things?” Global preference people are typically only interested in the detail as it fits into the bigger picture. They start from the big picture and work down to details.


An analytical preference person likes to get the facts and details first and then see how they fit into a larger picture or scheme. Analytical processors make up around 28% of the population (the rest by the way (17%) are comfortable processing in either way). Analytical people like to see the facts presented first and the bigger picture (but not too big) after all the facts have been delivered. They will also prefer more structure and formality in their information and learning than the global processors. Although an analytical processing preference will be well-accommodated in the formal learning world, conceptual information and theories may be short on detail and limited in sequential logic. This detail may therefore need to be sourced by pre-reading or asking for more application detail when necessary.

Whether our preference is for global or analytical understanding, the important thing is that we realize that learning preferences in these areas should be appreciated – we have to be able to take information, however it is presented, and synthesize it into our broader knowledge and activities. We need to “make sense” of it, whether we rely on the detail to help us do this or whether we rely on the big-picture or concept.

The featured video clip is drawn from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder Learning Styles Video Vignette Set.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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