Happy Labor Day to all! I hope each and every one of you take the time to rest, restore yourself and enjoy the holiday with someone you love!
Quick review of the last two posts: The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is a great launching off point for self-awareness and the first part of it, Introversion versus Extraversion, is more about energy flow than anything else.
Today I want to cover the next dichotomy and that is a preference for sensing versus intuition (S vs. N; the I was already taken by Introversion…).
Remember that Dr. Carl Jung believed the core functions of the human brain are to take in data and make decisions on that data. The S vs. N dichotomy is about how you take in data.
Those with an S preference take in data through their senses. If you can see it, hear it, taste it, smell it, or touch it, it is real and must be taken into consideration. They are into facts and the details of a situation, and tend to look at things very literally. If someone says “It’s about 20 to three.”, the S will jump in with “well, actually, it’s 2:41”. We all know them, and we all love them!
Due to their focus on the facts, they are very present oriented. They sequence things well and come up with very realistic solutions. They can be practical to a fault, having little patience for solutions that are not down-to-earth.
On the other side are the intuitives, or Ns. They like to think about theoretical things in an abstract way, playing “What If…” scenarios out. Their preference is to think about the future and the big-picture. They are known for ingenuity and trust their gut-instincts. They deal well with concepts and will wait until they have that flash of inspiration before moving forward with a plan.
Interestingly enough, most research scientists are Ns, since they are pushing that boundary of the state-of-the-art in their respective fields. Most engineers, though, have that S preference, which makes perfect sense since the definition of an engineer is someone who takes science and makes it usable to humans. It’s the practical application of out-of-the-box thinking.
This dichotomy tends to make people very judge-y about the other preference. Here’s how it might play out at work.
The scenario. You’re a department head and you’ve been asked to come up with a 5-year strategic plan. Just for fun, you divide your team into S vs N preference and ask them to each come up with a plan.
The S Team goes off and starts researching. What did the last 5-year plan look like? What do other companies like us say in their plan? What facilities will we need? What people will we have to hire? What equipment will we need to buy? How much money will we need and when do we need to start the budget submission process to have that money?
On deadline day, they turn in two 3-inch binders with all their information in a carefully laid out plan that is ready to execute.
The N Team, on the other hand, sits down together around a white board and starts throwing things out there. They capture it in a free-flowing drawing with loosely connected clouds. Someone finally mentions that they need to turn something in to you tomorrow, so they grab a piece of scrap paper from the recycling bin and rescribble the drawing on it.
On deadline day, they turn in that single piece of paper with a Dilbert cartoon on one side and their drawing on the other.
Your reaction to the two plans depends largely on your own preference.
If you are an S, you will look at the S Team’s binders and say “Oh my Gosh! Thank you! I clearly know where we are headed, and even how to get there! According to you, I should be submitting my proposals next month, so we’d better get started! Thank You!!”
If you are an S, you will look at the N Team submission and say, “Hmm…interesting. I can see (maybe) where you want to go, but how on earth are we going to get there? Is this even possible? When will I know if this is possible? Exactly how much drinking was involved with this?” Since what you are seeing is outside your preference, you tend to not take it seriously. I mean, really? There are no facts to support this!
Let’s flip the coin. Now you are an Intuitive department head. You look at the sheet of paper the N team gave you and stare at it for a while. You scratch your chin and all of a sudden, you have your Eureka moment. “Oh, my Gosh! I can see it! Jiminy Christmas, I never thought of it before! We’ll be loads ahead of our competitors. This is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking I was hoping for! Thank You!”
If you have that N preference, you’ll look at the mountain of info from the S team and say something like “Well…thanks…you’ve obviously put a lot of thought into this. Let me ask you this, though. If we want to leap ahead in this area, why would we base it on what we’ve always done? I think your proctologist called…he found your head. Where’s the groundbreaking technology we are striving for? Who cares about a plan when the destination is just…meh?” Again, as a leader, your ability to see the big picture might make you just not appreciate all the facts that you are presented with. Why did they let reality get in the way of a good story?
So there you have it; the S vs N preference. Which one do you lean towards? With 70% of the US population on the S side, odds are good that you are too, particularly if you are in a technical field.
How do you handle information from “the other side”? Do you dismiss when someone tells you that they have a gut feeling? What can you do this week to change that perception? Do you get bored by a lot of facts and information? What can you do to accept that information more easily?
Leaving you with this from the lighter side: “My wife’s feminine intuition is so highly developed, she sometimes knows I’m wrong before I’ve even opened my mouth”