Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Q: What happens when you put 1 and 1 together?

A: Depends on the type of personality you ask.

To my observation there are two types of people in the world. The first type conceptualizes that when you put 1 and 1 together, you get 2. The second type accommodates the notion that put 1 and 1 together, you get 11.

If you bang around a Meyers-Briggs lexicon of psychological types, you'll find that the first type is called a Sensing type. These folks rely upon the concrete facts to understand the world. The second type is called an Intuitive personality. For them, reality is a Big Picture in which the given experience is but an episode in a larger story.

For Sensing folks the role of language is to describe the world. For Intuitive folks the role of language is to express the world. Sensing folks ask, "How does it work?" Intuitive folks ask "Does it work?" For the Sensing folks, the beauty is in the balance sheet. For the Intuitive type, the beauty is.

When it comes to commerce, the Sensing type understands a very important fact: A business that does not make money, ain't. If the dollar amount attached to Accounts Receivable is not greater than the dollar amount of Accounts Payable, even the mightiest of businesses has a problem. And, if the problem goes on long enough, the business has a Big Problem. Profitability is acutely describable, always has been, always will be. As any Captain of Industry will tell you, profitability is best handled by Sensing folks.

Still, there is a whole world out there that cannot be described with words: explaining the color, red to a blind man or the sound of a chirping bird to one who is deaf. The only description is the experience itself. This is the world of the Intuitive. One just knows what it is.

Intuitive people experience a thing as part of a past, present and future whole. These are the people that see a ski and motorcycle and imagine a snowmobile. They see two cans tied together by a string and imagine computers talking to one another via an Ethernet cable. Give an Intuitive person a good cup of coffee, put him or her in front of sales force and you have a chain of Starbucks.

Businesses that last need both Sensing and Intuitive folks. Yet, it seems that as a business matures, the power bias moves toward the Sensing. Profitability, while essential, becomes paramount. Success is known more as a measurable quantity rather than a state of experience. Creativity, the de-facto realm of the Intuitive folk and the indescribable soul of an enterprise, becomes a transient commodity purchased from Ad Agencies that have a proven track record of staying on budget while increasing sales and market share. The transformation is not one of nefarious premeditation intent on sucking the life blood of originality from the corporate environment. Rather, to paraphrase an often used term, "it's just Sensing being Sensing."

So what's the point here? My point is this: If you are a reader that happens to have hire and fire power in your enterprise and also happens to be very good at understanding and defining profitability, when you look about your direct reports, how many people do you see that can accept that when you put 1 and 1 together, 11 is a plausible, if not useful result? If it's not half, you might be in some very real trouble.