best designed systems are made easy for the people who think in concrete, in
the here-and-now to understand. Software system? Make things happen on-screen,
not behind the scenes. Management system? Show people clearly the
if-this-than-that rule. Customer facing system? Instant response,
instant gratification. Vendor-facing system? Immediate pay. Government system?
Show voters that it makes a difference to vote. Over 70% of people are what the
Myers-Briggs and Keirsey tests call “Sensory“, the
people that are grounded in reality, the here and now. These are the ones that
use the mouse for everything they do on a computer, the ones that say
“Show me the money, then we can dream for the future.” These are what I call
systems are a collection of individuals working towards a common goal. Both the
constraints of this system and the rutted pathways are set by the owners, the
managers, and the long-term employees. And you have a choice: Set it up to
exclude the those who are Concrete Thinkers, and you may get a bunch of
talented, creative abstract thinkers. But they aren’t the ones who see the fine
detail, or take pleasure in getting it done. That Form 941 from the IRS? That’s
details. Understanding the differences between three bad health-insurance
plans? Details. Some of the most proficient artists I know are Concrete
Thinkers, and I’m convinced that their talent has been amplified by them seeing
and understanding the fine details.
often the system is designed by somebody who thinks abstractly. The neck-beard
that like his vim
keyboard shortcuts, the manager that moves on to the next Strategic Direction before
the first has had a chance to turn a profit. They think in the abstract, in the
big picture. But they’re often frustrated by the people around them, wishing
they could move past the variance in last month’s budget and start planning for
next month. They see the raw intelligence in a Concrete Thinker, but
are helpless to do anything with it for lack of understanding. Similarly, the
Concrete thinkers wonder how the Abstract Thinker keeps her job: she comes in
late, sits in brainstorming meetings, and rarely does any real work.
you have the latitude to design, you must design for the Concrete Thinkers, but
allow for the Abstract Thinkers. If you’re building houses, enforce the rule
that jobsite materials are organized for one day’s work at a time. But when
Abstract Joe, the one who can’t organize the buttons on his shirt, wants to put
in the gluelam from tomorrow’s stack to save time, listen to him. He might have
a point. If you’re the manager of the Accounting Department, make sure the
rules are clear about cutting checks for vendor discounts. But listen to
Abstract Jane when she says that by dipping into the line of credit for one
day, you can save 3,000 dollars.
do have the latitude to design, but you have to choose to.