One of the key goals of interviewing with empathy is to understand the client's motivations. That can be a very difficult if you don't truly understand their points of view, particularly when they seem to be very different from your own.
What if there were just three things you needed to understand to discover why anyone acts the way they do?
We've already talked about two of them; tolerance, for ambiguity and complexity. The third is called cognitive bias. It's a measure of risk tolerance, which a blend of tolerance for ambiguity and complexity, past experiences and future expectations. As we learned earlier, these traits have their roots in different parts of our brains and how those parts interact has a huge effect on learning and decision making.
Ichak Adzies developed a useful framework of four decision making styles, which he mapped against Approach, Focus, Pace and Perspective.
- Slow, Process Driven <--------------> Fast, Results Oriented
- Chaotic - Other Centered <-----> Structured - Self Centered
The implications of this insight are both obvious and interesting;
- The more selfish someone is the more impatient they are.
- Solving complex, ambiguous problems takes time and help from other people.
- User-Centered Persistent Optimists rule the problem solving roost.
In the context of Empathic Inquiry what we need to remember is that different people interpret the same set of circumstances differently depending on their tolerance for ambiguity and complexity and their degree of optimism. We need to recognize that without having our objectivity influenced by it.
So, are there any quick ways that we can get a read on where in this universe of decision making styles someone naturally falls? Here are a few ideas, questions to ask yourself, or someone else, and some elements to notice about your own or others' environments (homes or office spaces).
- Do you feel the world is basically a safe or a scary place?
- Do you like to be spontaneous or does there always need to be a plan?
- Is your desk or workbench organized or cluttered?
- Do you prefer company or being alone?
- Do unfinished things drive you crazy?
- Is "slack time" restful or a punishment?
By the way, these traits are expressed and illustrated nicely in the characters of one of my favorite stories; Winnie-the-Pooh.
How would these traits be useful in building problem solving (Design Thinking) teams?