Having an idea of how you and the people you deal with learn or process information can help.

Has there been a time when you just couldn’t understand why you couldn’t get along with someone from your work, in your family or on a committee or board? Did you think in your head “why can’t they think the way that I do”? Believe me, you are not alone. Having some idea of how you and the people you deal with learn or process (take in) information could help.

In our leadership program, we give participants a tool designed by David Kolb who has spent years researching how we learn, called Learning, Thinking, Working Styles. We know everyone has different personalities but do we know that we also process information differently? Through this tool, you understand there are four different quadrants which people process information. While we have qualities that may be more prevalent in one quadrant, we can have several qualities from the other three also.

According to Kolb, 70% of the population process from the upper left quadrant. This quadrant’s characteristics are: VISIONARY, ENTHUSIASTIC, BIG IDEAS, they ask the question “What if?”. They also need to work on: ORGANIZATION, REFLECTION, LISTEN WITHOUT FIXING. In the upper right quadrant, 10% of the population are: HELPFUL, SYMPATHETIC, SEEK PERSONAL MEANING, they ask the quest “Why?”. Those who are in the upper right need to work on: FINISH SOMETHING, PLAN AHEAD, MAKE QUICKER DECISIONS. The lower left quadrant is 5% of the population and the qualities are: LITERAL, PRECISE, VALUES STRATEGIC THINKING. Those in the lower left quadrant need to work on: CONNECT WITH PEOPLE, REFLECT, LISTEN. The lower right quadrant is 3% of the population and characteristics include: FIRM MINDED, WANTS TO KNOW WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY, PLANNERS. Those in the lower right quadrant need to work on: WELCOME CHANGE, TRY IT BEFORE IT’S PERFECT, DEAL WITH CONFLICT. Those that are in the middle are: ABLE TO MOVE COMFORTABLY FROM ONE QUADRANT TO THE OTHER WHEN NEEDED. Those in the middle need to work on: MAKING A DECISION, because they can move easily it is sometimes difficult.

My preferred quadrant is the upper left. While I have characteristics in almost all of the other quadrants, the place I am most comfortable is the upper left. Because of the nature of my job, I have to take time in the other areas to deal with the detail and planning but I have to be intentional and deliberate when I work from those quadrants because those are not where I am most comfortable.

By understanding how others process information, it will give an understanding how to communicate. I tell participants in the Leadership Butler programs, including the youth that “I can’t change the way you react to what I say, but I can change the way I say it to where your reaction is different.”

This tool is not a “test” and it is not about “personality”. While I have always explained it wasn’t these things, it only came to light when I had two people who fell into the same quadrant but were two totally different personalities. They both fell into the lower left quadrant, which is the literal, precise quadrant. One person is impersonal and the other was very outgoing but they processed information in the same way. This was validation for me and now I can use that for an explanation.

This is just a brief overview of this tool. For more information on Learning, Thinking Working Styles and other tools for leadership development or if there is a topic you would like to know more about, contact Becky Wolfe, Executive Director of Leadership Butler at info@leadershipbutlerinc.org