Insight article

What moves us?

In one of these many books on storytelling and communication that come across my desk, I recently noticed a piece on 'knowing your audience'. It referred to some research that was done by three psychologists called Rowe, Boulgarides and Mason on how different people tend to make decisions. They found that people tend to fall into one of four camps, depending on whether they had a high or low tolerance to ambiguity, and whether they were more socially or task focused. Of course, they gave these camps names…

Camp 1: Conceptual – people who had a high tolerance of ambiguity and were socially focused. These people like the 'big picture', conceptual ideas, visions etc. They are more likely to engage in the big ideas within business narratives, and are not so interested in the details.

Camp 2: Analytical – they also can tolerate ambiguity, but tend to be more task focused. These people like to analyse information or be presented with conclusions drawn from analysis. They like to see narratives supported by key facts, figures and other evidence to support the narrative’s emotional and intuitive allure.

Camp 3: Directive – people who have a low tolerance of ambiguity and are more task focused. The opposite of Conceptuals, these people are just looking for clear direction, and will place their energy determining how to make it happen. I suspect this camp respond well to the 'elevator story'. They also require a clear framework of objectives, milestones and clarity of tasks within a narrative.

Camp 4: Behavioural – they also have a low tolerance of ambiguity and are more socially focused. Like Directives, they are looking for clarity but they see the world through a human, experiential lens. For this group the illustrative anecdote is what brings to the narrative to life.

I’ve found it useful to keep these categories in mind when working with executives. Very often a boardroom – and whole organisations – will be filled with many different kinds of thinkers, each of whom we need to find ways to connect with. In coaching leaders, it is useful to recognise all four styles and encourage them to present their story in a way that appeals all round.

Nailia Tasseel