Conversations revolve around talking either ideas or perceptions. I think most people are comfortable picking one or the other and sticking to it. When does chasing an idea conflict with winning consensus?
An idea is a statement that begs to be rationalized. It is often a solution to a problem. For example, in 1980s, Steve Jobs had the idea: “Every person should have access to a personal computer.” You challenge this idea/hypothesis by coming up with the needs of the average person and doing a market study. (This example comes to mind because I just watched Jobs the movie.)
Some people like to talk ideas. They have analytical minds. They revel in sharing perspectives, philosophizing on societal impact, and debating for the best argument. There is comfort in being confined to rules based on rationality. Arguments are challenged with logic, hypothesis testing, and statistics and probability.
A perception is a response that begs to be voted on. For example, last week there was sufficient discussion about the impact a CEO’s religious views would have on the company’s image. It is almost impossible to rationalize whether the former CEO should have been pressured to resign, so you weigh the public response.
Some people like to talk perceptions. They have sensory minds. They like to connect with others. The rules are to follow social graces. A winning argument is often subjective and one that builds consensus.
There is not necessarily a clear, overall benefit in choosing one preference over the other, though there are surely situational benefits. Personally, I think there should be clear segues when you move from talking ideas to perceptions and vice-versa. Moreover, you may want to converse with people based on their preference so they are in their comfort zone. This is what good leaders already do.
The popular Myers Briggs Personality test gives some validity to what I am trying to say.[i] There are four personality types, which ask the following questions:
- Are you an introvert or extrovert?
- How do you process information (sensory or intuition)?
- What motivates you when you make a decision (thinking or feeling)? This has the strongest linkage to my discussion above. A thinking personality type looks to logic when making a decision. A feeling personality type looks to people and communication when making a decision.
- Do you prefer organization and order or are you open to new information and options?
There was an interesting quote in the NY Times about Mozilla’s former CEO:
(he) is a very analytic person who got into a situation he did not have the social skills to navigate.[ii]