We’ve all experienced the frustration of two people who are talking past each other – they are speaking in such a way that they are not speaking at each other, rather they are speaking past each other resulting in frustration, mis-understanding, wasted time and decreased productivity. Talking past each other can often be remedied by having one or both of the mis-communicating people rephrase what they are saying and mirroring back to the other person what they are discerning the other person is trying to communicate. But it is just as frequently related not just to how we communicate, but actually how we think. So what may appear as two people talking past each other is really two people thinking-past-each-other!
One of the tools facilitated early in a StratOp is a construct called “Thinking Wavelength”. Tom Paterson, the creator of StratOp, was sent by a client to Europe to discover why a certain salesman who despite being moved around to different territories, always managed to increase sales dramatically and continually be the organization’s leading salesman. The salesman told Tom “there are grinders, minders, keepers and finders. I’m a finder. Grinders take care of the details, minders do the same while managing a small group. Keepers manage the entire store. Finders sell something. Nothing happens until a sale is made. Finders start up a new business & develop territories; we are the entrepreneurs. I know it embarrasses the home office when progressively less developed territories become half of European sales, but I’m only doing my thing. I’m a finder.” Tom subsequently added a fifth category called “Conceivers” to the construct, and a series of 6 questions that can quickly identify where someone’s thinking falls on the spectrum of the 6 kinds of thinkers on the thinking wavelength continuum.
This tool is facilitated early during the first day of StratOp, when I am guiding a group to fuller perspective. Frequently, I observe light bulbs going off as people come to realize their own thinking wavelength and especially how their thinking corresponds to others on their teams. The 6 questions that are asked and self-rated by each individual results in a composite score between 1.0 and 10.0. When I was first brought through the process during StratOp training I came to see my composite score was 7.5 (a “finder”) and what immediately came to mind was someone else I had worked with on a recent significant project, whom I suspected was at the other end of the thinking wavelengths spectrum (turns out they are a 3.0, a “minder”). Since I had an oversight role and she was tasked with executing the details, I immediately came to realize how we had been thinking-past-each other as she needed to have all of the sequential steps spelled out prior to beginning the project, whereas my thinking wavelength has a higher degree of being comfortable with ambiguity, and being ok with figuring out the detailed steps along the way. We had been thinking-past-each-other and we didn’t even know it! The project was successfully completed, in no small part due to the phenomenal execution abilities of my colleague, but if we had known about thinking wavelength at the beginning of this project, it would have gone even better.
There is no right or wrong place to be in the thinking wavelength. Our thinking wavelength is inherent, and can’t be altered. Thinking Wavelength is used during a LifePlan facilitation as one of the tools to help people either confirm their current role is right for them, or what potential future roles would be a better match.
A well-balanced team will have a mix of people at different points along the continuum. If too many team members are clustered together on the continuum, the team may either lack the visionary leadership to conceive and drive the work through to completion in the face of setbacks and adversity, or it may lack the detail oriented people critical to actually doing the work. Therefore it is key is that people are in a role that corresponds to their thinking wavelength and that the people they work with all understand each others thinking wavelength so as they can properly talk to each other about the how, when, why and who should do the various aspects of a project. I’m happy to report that my rock star colleague, the one with a composite score of 3.0, has found great benefit in understanding her own thinking wavelength and those of whom she works with (including me), so as we all now have greatly reduced our talking and thinking past each other, thereby leading to an even more productive work place.