“You’ve decided to move, and you are given three options:
- Hunt for the perfect house in the perfect location.
- Find an empty lot and build your dream home.
- Find the dream plot and work with the tired house that’s already there.
Which do you choose?”
There is no right answer, and in fairness, I’m not really looking for one. Rather, I’m looking to see how the person tackles the question, how he/she breaks it down and ultimately how he/she responds. The speed of response alone is telling and so is the thought process that’s involved in getting there.
This type of questioning helps flush out if the person is a:
- Tank or Plumber
- Linear or Abstract Thinker
In my previous post, I jumped on my hobbyhorse and galloped around espousing the differences between Tanks, Plumbers and Chameleons; and now in part two of this “Know Yourself” series, I’m going to explore the differences between Linear versus Abstract Thinkers. Both are critical to know when you’re assembling a team.
If asked, the knee jerk reaction for most is to say they’re Abstract Thinkers. Why? Well, let’s face it, Abstract sounds cool, sassy and forward-looking; Linear seems one-dimensional and a little, um, boring. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
Let’s look at some definitions:
- Abstract Thinkers: Have the innate ability to “connect the dots” or see how “stars align”; they’re normally fast on their feet when it comes to discussions and the answers. However, the last mile isn’t really that interesting to them so the final execution feels kind of unnatural… sort of like catching a ball with the wrong hand. It’s possible but not something they welcome trying to do.
- Linear Thinkers: See what’s in front of then and form tasks into a single work stream, knowing which part needs to be knocked off the list first before they move to the next one, and so on; they’re very process-orientated. They are generally not the first to answer a question; they’re more cerebral and like to formulate a response first. They’re not known to shoot from the hip.
Why is this important to me?
Knowing what I am good at is one thing, but equally important is knowing what I’m not so good at. It’s critical that I have a healthy balance of both attributes in my immediate circle of decision-making and influence so my team crosses the finish line strong and on target. (Yep, I’m a Tank and an Abstract Thinker.)
Additionally, it’s important for me to understand how each member of my team thinks as some will rush to an answer while some will need the space to formulate. All opinions are important after all (ever watchful of implicit bias).
If you go to the trouble of creating a diverse management team or, in the more specific case of IT, an effective protection team, you really need to understand how each person ticks or your initial efforts will render a suboptimal result.
You need to understand how your CIO thinks, your DBA thinks, your storage admin thinks, and so on. Else risk internal chaos.
So, you can be a Plumber or a Tank and within these personas be an Abstract or Linear Thinker. The challenge for organizations and managers, as the book “Good to Great” explains, is making sure you get the right people on the bus and in the right seats. Companies succeed or fail on this simple principle, and I contend their mojo depends on it.
How’s your company doing?