November 29, 2006
Qualitative, Intuitive Thinkers vs Quantitative, Data-Based Thinkers: How Not to Make Each Other Crazy
Liz published this at 11:31 am
It was a chain of thoughts this morning, that started with a post at Seth’s blog. I so agree with what he said, but I should warn you, this post is not about his content. His post title got me thinking about the ways that people think.
Seth’s title, “This must be hard,” reminded me of a woman I once worked for. Joan believed that all good things must be difficult. She often said that anyone who achieved a 3.9 grade point went to an easy school — no exceptions.
Joan sought out the hard road. She liked hard data. She strove to have her “ducks in a row.” Her details never fell through the cracks. Her entire knowledge of gut feeling was how to spell it. Working smart in Joan’s world meant taking the easy way out.
Joan was mostly a quantitative, black and white, data-based thinker.
I was an intuitive, “seat of the pants,” qualitative thinker. At times, Joan’s boxes, details, and ducks all lined up made me crazy.
Chris made the comment of a qualitative, intuitive thinker.
That single sentence would have made Joan crazy. No facts, no concrete to support it. She’d say it was too easy.
Folks who prefer one way of thinking often frustrate folks who prefer the other. Gosh wouldn’t it be nice if everyone thought like we do? Well, not really. Both kinds of thinking are important to making great decisions.
No one seems to dispute the fact that every person has a preference, or that we all can do both — we just don’t like one nearly as much as the other. Still we need both.
How Not to Make Each Other Crazy
The trick is knowing when to be intuitive and when to get to hard data. It’s figuring out how to work together without driving each other crazy — knowing when a situation calls for folks who are good at one or the other.
It works a lot like writing — go for ideas, then edit and test them.
Qualitative thinking is a valuable skill when we need ideas, possibilities, and solutions. Creativity needs the room that qualitative thinking allows. Even qualitative numbers — somewhere around a billion — work when we’re trying to imagine or wonder our way out of old assumptions into new options.
Once we’ve gathered possibilities with potential — likely suspects — that’s when we turn to the switch to quantitative thinking. Move over to the black and white, gather folks who think well in concrete, hard data terms.
Quantitative thinking in binary black and white is a valuable skill when we need to test and validate ideas, assumptions, and action plans. Getting grounded in reality needs the “yes or no,” the “go or no go” of solid numbers and “best and worst case” scenarios.
Two kinds of thinking challenge each other to make an idea and test it. One to imagine, one to validate — that gets the best of both minds, both kinds of thinking.
When I figured that out, I began to value folks who think differently than I do, It became a pleasure working with them. They like to do the things that I find frustrating and painful — herding ducks into a row.
Imagine or calculate it. It doesn’t have to be hard. Two kinds of thinking beat one.
Take a look at who makes you crazy. What does that person do well that you really hate to do?