Episode 177 – Work Better Together – Managing Thinking Preferences

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33 Minutes
Home Manage This Podcast Episode 177 – Work Better Together – Managing Thinking Preferences

About This Episode

Teresa Lawrence

When it comes to problem solving or innovation, the goal is to generate ideas, make those ideas better, and then implement them. But what if we are skipping some important stages of the creative problem-solving process? Dr. Teresa Lawrence, an expert on the integration of Creative Problem Solving into project management, joins us to illustrate the importance of understanding our cognitive diversity, knowing our preference to the stages of the creative problem-solving process, and recognizing how our preferences influence project team interactions. She explains that cognitive diversity is diversity of thought, including our thinking preferences when we approach problems, challenges, and innovation.

In episode 170, we talked with Amy Climer about the four stages of the creative problem-solving process: clarify, ideate, develop, and implement. Teresa adds that we all have a preference for one or more of those four stages. Listen in as Teresa describes the FourSight Thinking Profile, which is an instrument that measures our thinking preferences to reveal our innate preference to various stages of the problem-solving process. A team that is cognitively diverse ensures that none of the stages of the creative problem-solving or innovation process are skipped.

Teresa Lawrence, PhD, PMP is a master facilitator of FourSight. She provides professional services in creativity, creative problem solving, process evaluation, and project management to help organizations innovate and implement solutions that ensure value realization. Since 2017, over 80K people have participated in one of her trainings, workshops, keynotes, or facilitated sessions. Teresa is president and owner of International Deliverables, LLC, a New York State Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and a 2019 Small Business Administration Home-based Business Award recipient.

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Favorite Quotes from Episode

"The more that we know our preferences, the better teams we make. … just to underscore this notion of this unconscious bias that we have. It doesn’t matter that I like you or not like you. When it comes to problem-solving, I’m probably going to find myself moving toward the people who solve it the similar way. And isn’t that great? And isn’t that dangerous?"

Teresa Lawrence

“What I always say to organizations is that we want to stay focused on wrestling with the problem and not each other.”

Teresa Lawrence

“What happens is that we’re in the rabbit hole of a homogeneous team. … we skip stages of the problem-solving process, versus having a heterogeneous team that we really circle the problem.”

Teresa Lawrence

The podcast by project managers for project managers. When it comes to problem solving or innovation, the goal is to generate ideas, make those ideas better, and then implement them to work better together.  Dr. Teresa Lawrence talks about understanding cognitive diversity, managing our thinking preferences to the stages of the creative problem-solving process, and how our preferences influence project team interactions.

Table of Contents

01:50 … FourSight Thinking Profile
03:43 … Teresa’s Start in Cognitive Diversity
06:45 … What is Cognitive Diversity?
09:44 … Learning Thinking Tools
11:13 … 15 Individual Thinking Preferences
12:46 … Creating a Healthy Diversity
15:40 … Keeping Everyone Engaged
18:21 … Bill and Wendy’s Team Profile
20:43 … Holding Ourselves Accountable
22:50 … Communicating Thinking Preferences to Your Team
27:35 … William’s Story
30:44 … Find out More
32:31 … Closing

TERESA LAWRENCE: The more that we know our preferences, the better teams we make.  And again, just to underscore this notion of this unconscious bias that we have.  It doesn’t matter that I like you or not like you.  When it comes to problem-solving, I’m probably going to find myself moving toward the people who solve it the similar way.  And isn’t that great?  And isn’t that dangerous?

WENDY GROUNDS:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  I’m Wendy Grounds, and in the studio with me are Bill Yates and Danny Brewer. Today we’re talking to Dr. Teresa Lawrence.  She is recognized as a subject matter expert on the integration of creative problem-solving into project management. Since 2017 over 80,000 people have participated in her trainings, workshops, keynote facilitated sessions. She is a master facilitator of FourSight, the industry leading assessment that shows people their team preferences towards problem-solving and innovation. And she’s going to describe what FourSight is and go into a little more detail in our conversation. And we’re very excited to have her with us today. She’s also the president and owner of International Deliverables

BILL YATES:  Yeah, Teresa is going to be a great guest.  She’s going to take some of the elements that we talked about back on Episode 170 with Amy Climer, and she’s going to go further with it.  With Amy we talked about the creative problem-solving process, and there are four stages that we’ll refer to in the podcast:  clarify, ideate, develop, and implement.  Well, what Teresa’s going to say is, hey, we all have a preference for one of those four stages, or maybe a couple.  And our preferences can influence how we interact with a team.  So she’s going to dive into that and raise our awareness as project leaders so that we can be better with our teams.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Hi, Teresa.  Welcome to Manage This.  We’re grateful you’re here with us today.

TERESA LAWRENCE:  Thank you.  It’s a privilege, and it’s great fun to be with you this morning.  Thank you for having me.

FourSight Thinking Profile

WENDY GROUNDS:  Teresa, could you tell us what is the FourSight Thinking Profile, and just a little bit about the science behind it.

TERESA LAWRENCE:  So the FourSight assessment, typically known as FourSight, is a research-based assessment authored by Gerard Puccio, who is the department chair in what was formerly known as the International Center for Studies and Creativity, now recognized by title the Center for Applied Imagination, based on six years of research.  And so Gerard, masterful in the creative problem-solving process, said to himself, there are these stages of the creative problem-solving process.  Do people have a preference toward the stages?  And the answer is yes.  And so it has been validated by more than 20 academic journals.  It’s a reliable instrument that measures our thinking preferences.

It is an online assessment.  You can do it pen and paper, but it’s just quicker to do it online.  39 questions takes about 10 minutes.  And I say to people, “Just answer the questions.  Don’t answer it as if you think I think there’s a right answer; right?  Just answer the questions.”  So again, research-based.  Took about six years, went through six iterations.  It’s currently in the eighth edition.

What it reveals is your innate natural preference to a stage or stages of the problem-solving process.  You like to clarify, ideate, develop, implement.  Or two of those you have a preference.  For three of those you have a preference.  Or, we have this thing called the Integrator who has a preference toward all of them.  Terrific team member.  So research-based, easy to take, highly insightful about preference for the problem-solving and innovation process.

Teresa’s Start in Cognitive Diversity

WENDY GROUNDS:  How did you get into this whole realm of cognitive diversity?

TERESA LAWRENCE:  When I started this focused work in 2017, which is the intersection of creativity, creative problem-solving into project management. Being so skilled in the creative problem-solving process and working with so many teams, it became abundantly clear that I needed to do this next logical step, which has engaged the thinking preferences, cognitive diversity that individuals have toward problem-solving.  I’m working with teams.  I’m working with individuals.  And I’m coming in, I’m training, and I’m facilitating; and I can still see people are stuck, or the team isn’t gelling, or knowing enough about the problem-solving process, being able to recognize leapfrogging over stages.

So I kind of circled back knowing what I know, but somehow myself had overlooked it is this thing called FourSight, which is really kind of the complement, if you will, the personalization of understanding the creative problem-solving process.  And that’s understanding our diversity of thought.  So when we have stages of creative problem-solving what we know, cognitive diversity, each of us has different preferences, not ability, preferences toward the creative problem-solving process.

And so I realized that it is critical that teams and individuals know their thinking preferences.  Why?  Because we want to hire for ability.  Absolutely.  But what we want to do is solve problems and solve them faster.  And so when we know the creative problem-solving process, number one, more importantly, when we know our preferences, and we’ll look at your team profile in just a little bit, we can see where we have gaps.  Why is that important?  If it’s a short, straightforward problem, we want a homogeneous team.  If it’s an ambiguous, complex problem, we want this heterogeneous team.

Now, here’s the thing.  When we look at a team profile, and we see that we’re missing, say, for example, folks who have a preference toward ideation, we come in, and we teach those thinking tools. 

So how did I stumble into it?  Really, my ongoing work with project teams, largely project and leadership teams, and realizing that they’re clunking their way forward as opposed to, number one, knowing the stages of problem-solving; number two, knowing who has the preferences on the team; more importantly, number three, teaching thinking tools so that none of the stages of the creative problem-solving or innovation process are skipped.  And when I do that, it’s like jet fuel; right?  We have language.  We have jargon.  We’re able to really, really extend EI initiatives and strategies.  And we know our thinking preferences – again, preferences, not ability.  We can learn tools.

What is Cognitive Diversity?

BILL YATES:  And just to clarify, we’re talking about diversity, but here we’re talking about cognitive diversity.  So describe that just a little bit further.

TERESA LAWRENCE:  Cognitive diversity is really this diversity of thought, and our preference, our thinking preferences when we approach typically problems, challenges, and innovation.  For example, if something were to happen, if right now fire engines were to go outside of my house and run by, somebody who has a preference for clarifying probably immediately is going to jump into questions.  What’s going on?  How is this happening?  Did you know about this?  Are these our local fire company; right?  So they have a preference toward that.

Versus somebody else who might have a preference toward ideating might say, oh, we should stop doing what we’re doing right now.  Maybe we should go out and help; right?  So they jump to ideas.  Versus somebody who’s looking to develop and make it better might say, well, hang on, let’s look at what we should do first or second.  There might be a better way.  Somebody who has a preference toward implementing says, let’s run out and see what’s going on.  So we have preferences.  We can be a high clarifier and a high ideator.

And so what ends up happening is, as we circle the wagon of a problem, these preferences come into play.  And what I always say to organizations is that we want to stay focused on wrestling with the problem and not each other.  So why is this important?  If I have preference toward action, toward implementing, and Wendy has preferences toward clarifying, here’s the writ.  When we know the creative problem-solving process, we can say, aha.  She is resting in the stage of understanding what’s going on.  Teresa has already jumped to doing something about it.  So again, it’s our thinking preferences, our thought preferences, our diversity of thought.

And where this, I think is so important when I work with organizations on their DEIJ initiatives is that it really begins, kind of it begins with me.  So it’s not about visually seeing, whether it’s gender orientation, whether it’s ethnicity, whether it’s culture, I don’t really see cognitive diversity, but I sure as heck feel it.  And when we get stuck, and we don’t problem-solve, if we’re not cognizant of this cognitive diversity, we really tend to move toward likeminded folks.  Just feels good.  They solve problems like we do.

What happens is that we’re in the rabbit hole of a homogeneous team.  Right?  And we skip stages of the problem-solving process, versus having a heterogeneous team that we really circle the problem.  What’s going on?  Let’s understand what’s going on.  Let’s be clear to generate some ideas.  And let’s be clear to make those ideas better.  And then let’s be clear to implement them.  Again, if we don’t have that as a preference, we can learn thinking tools.

Learning Thinking Tools

WENDY GROUNDS:  If you look at the different types of diversity. With cognitive diversity, could you learn some of the other types of cognitive diversities?

TERESA LAWRENCE:  So what we know from research FourSight, the leading assessment that reveals our thinking preferences for problem-solving and innovation is that those remain largely static.  The caveat to that is that we are all functioning adults.  I mean, we have to get things done.  So it’s not that we can’t do them.  It’s a preference.  Some people like spicy food.  Some people don’t.  That’s a preference.  It has nothing to do with ability.  So it’s not so much that me as a very high implementer can become one of the other 15 profiles.  What it means is I now have awareness.  Number two, what that means is I need to learn tools for those other stages so that I do them.  Second grade matters.  If it didn’t, we would go from first to third grade.

And when we’re on team solving problems, and we skip a stage of the problem-solving process, we’re missing an important stage.  So I don’t necessarily change my thinking preference.  I become aware of it, and I learn tools that support and allow me to really honor and do and appreciate those other stages of the creative problem-solving process.

15 Individual Thinking Preferences

WENDY GROUNDS:  Could you, just for the benefit of our audience, list the 15 preferences?

TERESA LAWRENCE:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  So there are 15 different FourSight profiles.  We clarify, we ideate, we develop, and we implement.  Those are the stages of the creative problem-solving process.  You can have one thinking preference, which would mean you could be a high clarifier.  So you prefer to understand, give context, ask questions.  You could be an ideator; right?  You generate ideas.  That’s where you have your preference.  You can come up with these wild and crazy ideas.

You can be a developer, you like to make things better.  And you say things like, “Hang on, let me think about that for a second.”  You could be an implementer, moving toward action, getting things done.  That would be if you had one preference; but you might have two thinking preferences, something like an early bird.  You like to clarify you have energy there.  You have energy in ideating.  But when it comes to making them better or getting stuff done, you just don’t have a preference for that.

So the 15:  clarifier, early bird, finisher, ideator, analyst, pair, developer, accelerator, idea broker, implementer, theorist, realist, integrator, driver, optimist.  And the reason why those are important to know is, again, filling those gaps.  We want to stay focused on wrestling with the problem and not each other

Creating a Healthy Diversity

BILL YATES:  That brings me to the next question, which is, okay, how do we, as project managers, how do we create teams that have a composition that’s healthy, that has a healthy diversity or mixture about it?

TERESA LAWRENCE:  So the thing that I always say, always hire for talent.  FourSight lets us know our thinking preferences.  What does it mean to have these preferences?  What does it mean when we clarify what preferences do you have?  How about this, at an extreme?  How does that rub other people?

I’ll pick on my mom.  She’s a very high clarifier.  She asks a million questions.  At an extreme, she drives us all nuts.  And again, we’re wrestling then with each other and not the problem.  So when we’re talking about diversity, we want to be cognizant to give each other what we need.  And so we give my mom a whole bunch of information well in advance so she can sift, filter, sort, and think. 

And so, again, the question is about teams.  Who’s on the team?  What’s the team composition?  What do we need when we have those preferences?  So as we’re managing meetings, as we’re hosting meetings, we can say things like, does everybody need to be at this meeting?  No, because we’re only looking for ideas.  What it also means is, when we know our team composition, what are the thinking tools for the stages of the creative problem-solving process?

So that number one, if my mom is the clarifier on the project team, it’s not only her responsibility to understand what’s going on.  It’s all of ours.  Right?  When the tide comes in, all ships rise.  Nobody on the team is off the hook.  Point that I’d want to make there, too, about teams, hire for talent.  Know the thinking preferences.  Nobody’s off the hook.  Stay focused on wrestling with the problem, not each other.  Learn those tools.

And then here would be honestly one of my most powerful things I say when I’m working with teams is identify what kind of problem it is.  If it’s a straightforward short-term problem, bring in a homogeneous group.  Do you need just to clarify real quick?  This missive came out.  We have a meeting in 20 minutes.  Give it to the clarifiers.  A hundred people are going to show up on your doorstep.  Where are we going to park them?  Just bring in the ideators; right?  This PowerPoint isn’t working.  I want to make sure it’s good.  Give it to the developers.  They’ll find if a font is different.  You want to run something home, bring in the implementers.

If, however, you recognize it’s this complex, ambiguous, longer ranging problem. You want a heterogeneous team.  A study out of Harvard that says these heterogeneous teams solve problems faster and better.  Why?  Because they’ve got their bases covered, they’re not skipping second grade.  They’re really honoring the stages of the problem-solving process – knowing who’s on the team, knowing the tools to use, given the various stage on the team. 

Keeping Everyone Engaged

BILL YATES:  Teresa, I’ve got a follow-up question on that because I love the example of your mother as the clarifier.  I can relate.  God bless her.  I could see a tendency with a team of going, okay, now we know our preferences.  We sort of have labels on our head.  And when my label is up, when my light turns on, then I’ll contribute and I’ll have things to say.  And I’m speaking from my preference.  But when it’s not, then I’m just going to sit back and eat a little bit of popcorn and watch what’s going on.  I can disengage.  And I’m sure that’s not the intent.  So how do you coach up those people to stay engaged and fully participate?

TERESA LAWRENCE:  When we recognize the preferences of others, if we were generating ideas, right, I’d be able to see the clarifier kind of pull away.  They just kind of switch out. And when we look at our profiles, and if you look at your two profiles – so I’m going to look at Wendy’s.  Wendy is an implementer.  And what that simply means is that her preference is toward action, toward doing, context, history, the sociopolitical environments of it, making action steps happen.  Okay?  So that’s her preference.  So when I look at her energy wave, when people are clarifying and ideating, yeah, I mean, okay, that’s great.  When we develop, she’s making her shopping list toward something else.  I mean; It doesn’t mean that she can’t.  It’s just not her preference.

And so what we want to be mindful of is if we say, you know, we’re going to be developing things, just honor Wendy.  Wendy, you don’t have a preference for this.  But remember the tools that we have.  PPCO:  pluses, potentials, concerns, overcoming concerns.  It’s important for us to develop this.  So here’s the tool we’re going to use.  Sure.  I mean, it’s not forever that we’re going to be developing in that moment.  So she’s not off the hook.  You don’t get to check out.  When we think about emotional intelligence, now that you know this about yourself, there are ways that we can mitigate it.  Learn thinking tools and strategies.

And so if we look, say, for example, at Bill’s chart, his profile as an accelerator, I always want people to be thinking these are like energy flows.  So you gain and lose energy.  It doesn’t mean you can’t do it.  It’s not about ability.

BILL YATES:  It’s just what gets you excited.  Yeah, it’s your preference.

TERESA LAWRENCE:  It’s what gets you excited.  Where you kind of sit up or sit down, where you pay attention and where you don’t pay attention.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t.  It simply means you don’t have a preference.  So it doesn’t matter if it’s your preference, you know you’re in the ideating stage.  Should we brainstorm?  Should we brain write?  Or should we do a scamper?  What should we do right now because we need ideas, versus not having it as a preference, so you just don’t do it.

Bill and Wendy’s Team Profile

WENDY GROUNDS:  Bill and I found out we are pretty low on ideate.  And I think that’s quite true.

BILL YATES:  That’s a nice way to say it.

TERESA LAWRENCE:  So for the sake of our audiences, let’s just share a little bit about that.  Well, it’s only a two-member team.

WENDY GROUNDS:  Right.  It’s a little team.

TERESA LAWRENCE:  One of you has a preference toward clarifying.  You’re energized.  You read the history, the context.  You’re able to kind of really question.  You have a panache for really getting to the right problem.  Neither one of you have a preference toward ideating. Both of you have a preference toward implementing.  So if I just look at face value at your profile, my summary would be you are a team that spends time understanding, and then you do stuff.

WENDY GROUNDS:  But is that okay?  Because our team, it’s just, you know, we – we plan a podcast.  We come up with ideas.  We research that.  And then we just move to getting the podcast done.  I don’t think we’ve really felt there’s a gap.


TERESA LAWRENCE:  What if there are better ideas you’re not considering?  Here’s the thing.  Ideas don’t have feelings.  People do.  So what we want is the luxury.  I want you to imagine the cereal aisle in your store.  It can be overwhelming to have so many ideas.  That’s why there’s a process.  We diverge to generate a whole bunch of ideas, and then you could converge on those ideas that you really like.  Then make those couple that you really like a lot better so that when you implement them, boom.  It’s a well-developed idea that you’re implementing, as opposed to this first immediate idea that you have.

So for sure, again, we’re functioning adults.  You guys get things done.  You’re successful.  What we know about cognitive diversity, what we know about the creative problem-solving process and creativity, novelty, that’s useful, is that if we honor that process, if we recognize our thinking preferences, if we use the research-based thinking tools, you solve problems better and faster.  And so what I would say about your team, I would ask the rhetorical question, what have you missed?  What have you overlooked?  What have you not considered?  And in hindsight, having energy toward action, my guess is you do often look back and say, you know what we could have done?

Holding Ourselves Accountable

TERESA LAWRENCE:  And the thing really that I find important, if it’s especially projects, big ones, small ones, whatever the case may be, like the reboot button, the reset, like on a pinball machine, we don’t have that kind of time, energy, or resources. 

And the team, we can kind of hold ourselves accountable because somebody would say, “Hey, folks, remember, we don’t have anybody who prefers to ideate.  So shouldn’t we come up with some more ideas first to consider them before we jump into action?”  Otherwise, you know what happens?  You solve the symptom and not the problem.  And the beauty about this is when we know the creative problem solving process, when we know our preferences, when we can identify where we are in the problem as it relates to our project, we can immediately jump to a tool.

The thing that’s nice about this, too, when organizations and project teams all go through their FourSight profiles, and they go through training, then we can really facilitate better meetings.  One of my favorite lines is it’s hard to read the label from inside the jar.  So when we know our thinking preferences, again, we’re having a meeting.  Are we talking about risk?  Are we talking about stakeholders?  And are we talking about the activities that we need to do?  Potential bidders?  Oh, you know what that is?  Let’s ideate first.  Let’s have some selection process going from diverging to converging.

And if the project team is there, and people are trained, and you know these thinking tools, you can bring somebody else in to facilitate that meeting so that the project team is all involved, as opposed to the project lead facilitating that meeting.  Well, hang on, you have some ideas.  So are you part of the meeting, or are you facilitating your meeting?  So again, this notion of beginning with our thinking preferences lets us know who’s walking into the room.  How is that influencing what we do and how we approach problems?  Honoring the thinking preferences of individuals so that, if we have a high ideator, they’re going to come up with these wacky ideas.  And what we need to give them is, okay, it’s a little wacky, Teresa, but let’s hold onto that.  We need novelty.  We need this being able to solve problems on demand.

Communicating Thinking Preferences to Your Team

BILL YATES:  Teresa, there’s a point that you brought up earlier that I want to go back to.  And it has to do with self-awareness.  And I want to hear your advice to a leader who has a team intact.  They’ve suddenly become aware of this; right?  It’s like, oh, now maybe I’ve been through this FourSight assessment.  I understand my thinking preferences now.  I want to walk my team through it, but I also want to do it from a place of humility. 

And I want to be a servant leader.  I want to talk about my natural preferences and how that’s going to impact how I bring value to the team.  And through that, I hope to bring them onboard with it too.  So what advice do you have to that leader who’s kind of walking into this for the first time in terms of how they approach it, internalize it, and then communicate it to their team?

TERESA LAWRENCE:  I think what’s often overlooked on projects is this commitment that we have toward team development.  So, you know, our money’s being allocated for that.  Are we honoring that stage of resource development?  When I come in and I do FourSights with organizations, just as you did, you take the assessment in advance. Behind the scenes, I know the thinking preferences and the profiles of individuals.  So I do a challenge.  It’s ambiguous.  You can solve it in more than one way.  Sometimes there’s a lot of information.  Sometimes there’s not a lot of information.  And I quote/unquote “randomly” put you in a group.  It’s not so random.  It’s a people of like thinking preferences.  And it’s like this awesome first date because it’s a homogeneous team.  And everybody solves the same challenge.

I just recently did this at the project management, the global conference, 200 people.  It was outstanding.  People stand up, and they show what they created, and what they did.  And then I asked them to think about what did they do well, and what could they have done better?  Clarifiers will say things like “We didn’t really have any ideas.”  Implementer groups will say “We didn’t even read the directions.”  And the developers will say like, “We tinkered, tinkered, tinkered.  You said we had to use 12 pieces.  We only had 11.  We were freaking out.”

And so what happens is that we have this personal reflection, and the leader is part of that humble, laugh with self, not laugh at others.  And then we talk about the stages of the creative problem-solving process.  More importantly, we talk about the traits, the characteristics of each one of these stages – clarifying, ideating, developing, and implementing.  What I like to say is that neither one of these FourSight profiles is better than, they’re just different from.

And so when we see that, so we understand our individual profile.  And then I talk about the traits; right?  What is really good?  What do they need?  And at an extreme, what can make somebody nuts?  If I walked into a room of people who like to ideate; right?  I’m like people, enough with it.  Like let’s do something.  So I can see that the ideator understands how they can come across as an extreme.  And then the follow-up to that is what do I need to give?  How do I need to honor you in that space?  And so the leader gets to recognize who’s on the team.  What do they naturally need and go to?  How do others respond?  And again, just simply kind of honoring that.

So if I am on a team, and there are a lot of clarifiers, you know, I’m going to make sure that that agenda is out early.  And the ideator, the developer, the implementer, it’s a good chance they’re not going to read the agenda.  The clarifier needs that.  Great.  The ideator, let’s give these individuals time.  And when they come up with a wacky idea, acknowledge it.  I always say, if the developer says, “Hang on, hang on, let me think about that,” well, let them think about it.  And your implementer is the fire in the engine.

And I think the most beautiful thing, most powerful thing is that it’s about a preference, not ability.  So if you don’t have a preference toward something else, you’re not less of a team member.  You’re not incapable.  You should have hired a smarter person.  No.  It’s just your preference.  And it’s like anything in project management or any industry.  When we know jargon, when we have tools, I could say to a high clarifier, yes, you can ask questions; but you get three, not 20.  And again, how are we going to do an increased team synergy?  Never had an organization say we should have done something else.

And just as you both, Wendy and Bill, looked at your team profile, now again you have this awareness.  And so you have this “Aha.  Man, we just kind of understand and do.  Hmm.  Should we come up with a couple more ideas before we act?”  And people always say, you know, it’s this creative problem-solving, highly engaging, highly, highly inclusive, like we don’t have time for that.  We just don’t have time for that.  And I always ask, do you have time for the redo?  Do you have time for the mishap?

William’s Story

Let me tell you a quick story about my son, William.  When COVID came, he came home from university, and he’s a driver.  What that means, he has a preference toward idea generation and action.  So my husband Tom and I came home one day, and in our backyard, we have a beautiful backyard, there was this, like, target, this wooden constructed target, bulls-eye, probably was maybe six feet tall.  And I said, “William, what did you do?”  Like, “Tell me a little bit about this.”  And these are almost his words verbatim.  He says, “Ma, I had this great idea.  I wanted to build a target for axe and knife throwing.  Ran to Home Depot, and I made it.  Lookit.  Do you love it?”  I said, “It’s, I mean, it’s – it’s cool.  Sure.  Okay.”  Had an idea.  Ran to Home Depot.  Made it.

About two weeks later, Tom and I came home again, and there is a second, very different six-foot-tall target.  Instead of being a square, it was now a rectangle, and the bulls-eye had different stations.  So I said, right, “Dude, tell me a little bit about this new improved.”  So he says, “I didn’t really think it through that well.”  Right?  Clarify.  I go, “Tell me a little bit more.”  And he goes, “Well, lookit.  On the first one, the slats of the wood are going horizontal, which means when we threw a knife, they didn’t really stick.  They should have gone vertical.  And if we didn’t stand close enough when we threw them, they would fall to the ground, and they wouldn’t even stick at all.”

And so I said, “William, let’s – let’s just take a moment.  You had an idea, and you went to action.  Think about team composition.  You didn’t have a clarifier.  You didn’t have somebody who said, ‘Wait, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.  What are you doing?  You want to do what?  How?’  And then identifying gaps.  ‘Well, how are you going to put the wood?  In what ways can we build it?’  We also didn’t have a developer that said, ‘Hang on, hang on.  Your wood’s going the wrong way.  Let’s – let’s just think about this for a second.’”

So in hindsight, and whether or not we’re still talking about the triple constraint or anything, it doesn’t even matter.  We don’t have reboot.  We don’t have reset.  There’s a limited number of finances, resources, people, stuff, time.  And so in that story, which I tell to every group, it allows them to laugh at themselves because they can always remember a story, now that they know their preferences, what they did or didn’t do in the problem-solving process.  And the power of that with a team is that, again, it’s not personal.  We could just do better.  And so if you were an axe-throwing company, imagine if you didn’t clarify or develop your product, and the power that has for project teams creating some kind of deliverable.

So he didn’t have that as a preference, but he could do it.  Look what he did.  He went back, and he further clarified.  And he went back, and he developed.  So he had the ability, just wasn’t his preference.

Remember, second grade matters.  All of the stages of the problem-solving process matter.  Who’s on the team?  Where are you in the problem-solving process?  What’s the thinking tool you want to use?

Find out More

WENDY GROUNDS:  If our listeners want to reach out to you or find out a bit more about FourSight, where can they go?

TERESA LAWRENCE:  Just honestly, the best way to find me is on LinkedIn, Dr. Teresa Lawrence.  You’ll recognize my picture.  It’s me with this great big wave; right?  I kind of look like what I sound like, I think.  So just find me, Dr. Teresa Lawrence, on LinkedIn.  You can see a lot of the work that I do locally, nationally, internationally.  There’s some clips to some work that I’ve done.  That would honestly be the best place to see me.  I do have virtual and in-person PMI trainings coming up with PMI.  So if folks wanted to hop on that, they can learn a little bit about stages of the creative problem-solving process.  The best way to find me is on LinkedIn.  That’s largely the medium that I use.

BILL YATES:  Teresa, thank you so much.  To me, it’s so closely aligned with, as a project leader, you need to know your people.  You need to know their personality type.  You know, we talk about DISC, or MBTI, StrengthsFinder, whatever.  This is kind of that applied to problem-solving, to those stages in knowing what are people’s preferences?  Where do they tend to want to hang out?  And thank you for talking through that with us and helping us take our game to the next level in terms of leading project teams.

TERESA LAWRENCE:  Thank you.  Thank you.  My final ask, if anybody out there needs some assistance with FourSight training, to go ahead and reach out, that would be great.  The more that we know our preferences, the better teams we make.  And again, just to underscore this notion of this unconscious bias that we have.  And it doesn’t matter that I like you or not like you.  When it comes to problem-solving, I’m probably going to find myself moving toward the people who solve it the similar way.  And isn’t that great?  And isn’t that dangerous?


WENDY GROUNDS:  That’s it for us here on Manage This.  Thank you so much for joining us today.  Please visit us at Velociteach.com, where you can subscribe to the podcast and see a complete transcript of the show.  You’ve also just earned free PDUs by listening to this podcast.  To claim them, go to Velociteach.com and choose Manage This Podcast from the top of the page.  Click the button that says Claim PDUs and click through the steps.  Until next time, keep calm and Manage This.


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