Intelligence styles – the great masters in your midst

Janice was a work friend – we often went to lunch together and debriefed about recent meetings. We saw eye to eye on many management concerns in our company. We would take our spouses on “double dates” a few times a year, trade recipes and exchange gifts during the holidays outside of the company Secret Santa activity.

But in any kind of strategy meeting, Janice was my adversary. She interrupted me mid-thought to probe for details about what I’d suggested a paragraph ago. She couldn’t get past the little flaws to see the big picture and “get” my ideas. She constantly derailed my train of thought and killed the rhythm of my carefully prepared remarks, spoiling any sort of momentum I could build toward getting the group’s buy-in on my ideas.

Ahead of every meeting I anticipated this pattern and every time that it came to pass I became more and more aggravated (and defensive about my ideas) with feelings of frustration and betrayal. I dreaded our weekly meetings with the team, all because Janice was in my way.

Until I learned about intelligence styles. And how radical the contrast between intelligence styles Janice and I possessed.

Janice is a Clarifier. She is wired to interpret complex concepts by methodically assembling the individual building blocks of reality into an orderly picture, to bring and keep the situation in focus at all times. If she were a painter, she would be of the Realism school of painting, creating spectacularly lifelike renderings of her subjects.

I am an Ideator. I am wired to generate concepts in great number, with few details. I relish the freedom of ambiguity and conjure lots of possibility from it. I can paint a picture for you too, but it will be best taken in from a distance. My work is inspired by the Impressionist school.

Finally understanding that people have different intelligence styles, I had a new appreciation for Janice’s role in the group. Without her, we might veer off track and even end up solving the wrong problem. It is the Clarifier who brings it all into focus, after all. Janice wasn’t rejecting my ideas, she was helping us decide which ones were the right ones to pursue.

Since this insight into Janice’s intelligence style, I’ve modified my behavior to take into account her needs as a Clarifier. I take a little more time and put my ideas against a backdrop of reality with a few key facts and maybe a little history as we evaluate them. Accepting her role, I can be more patient with her questions and less defensive in my responses.

We have a few Developers in the group who use their genius to transform abstract ideas into systems and structures that meet the challenge effectively. Their process of considering, evaluating and planning helps us anticipate obstacles and strengthen our solutions ahead of time. If they had an artistic style it would be inspired by the Blueprint school.

Our Implementers move ideas into action. They know what to do or they’ll figure it out along the way. They prefer a sense of control and are always conscious of where they are in the process and where they are headed. They are marker driven and keen on the metrics. Implementers are of the Flow Chart school.

As a group we now take time for sense-making and evaluating and strengthening all the ideas after they’ve been allowed to come forth. And honoring our individual strengths and give everyone room to fulfill their roles makes our problem solving far better and more successful in the long run. The combination of everyone’s distinct brush strokes creates a masterpiece far more imaginative, influential and important than any of us could have painted on our own.

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