My wife has an interest in home decorating ideas and shares many of them with me.
One of the interesting trends I’ve seen lately is bookshelves. How do you arrange your books? Of the three methods I’ve seen, two of them seem crazy to me and one of them I just don’t understand. The two that seem crazy are:
- Wrap all your books in plain brown paper and put them on the shelf to give them a uniformed look. Finding a book is obviously not the point. It’s simply using books as a decorative tool. I don’t think of books that way.
- Turn your books around and put the binder to the back and leave the ends of the pages facing out. Once again, it gives an interesting aesthetic and visual effect of different paper textures, thickness, and colors, but why are you storing books if you don’t use the books, trigger a memory from the books, or go back to a book? Again, that just seems crazy to me.
The third one, I just didn’t understand, but I’ve experienced some interesting learning.
- Arrange your book by the color of its cover.
All the blue books are in one area of your bookshelf, all of the green books are in another area of your bookshelf, all the yellow books are in another area of your bookshelf. Again, it adds some architectural texture and color to the room, but at least you can see the spine of the book and read what the book is about. But for me, I would look at that and say, “I can’t find anything. How would I find a book on the shelf?” I tend to arrange mine by title or subject matter so that I can go back to them later.
Recently we visited one of our daughter’s homes. She has an artistic mind and taste. Her bookshelves were arranged by color. I had to admit that it looked very nice, but when she and I had a chance to sit down and talk one evening, I admitted to her that I couldn’t find anything on that bookshelf. “Why do you choose to arrange it by color?” Her answer to me was that “When I think about a book, the first thing I remember is its color, it helps me find the book quicker.” I had never thought about that.
I spent a day with a colleague the other day who is just tremendously successful and respected. One of the conversations we had was about certain books we had read, and I almost had to chuckle, when every time I would bring up a book he would say, “Did that book have a green cover with yellow writing?” Or, “Was that a blue book?” Or, “Was that the black book with the gold print on it?” For one of them, I had to say, “I believe there were two editions. One of them was green and one of them was black with gold.” But that helped him recall a particular book.
The point here is, that we all recall things in different ways and for very different reasons. In general, the business world assumes, and I want to emphasize the assumes, that we recall things through rational logic. But it doesn’t happen that way. To build great teams we must understand and honor what triggers people’s thought and recall. We must allow people to throw out things like, “I think of this in that way,” Or, “I recall this because of that color or that experience or that situation.” Some will think logically and rationally, but not everyone does and great teams honor that. They begin to understand that even the best of people recall and think about things in very different ways.
Accepting the differences opens the door for great dialogue on very tough issues. When we begin to see the whole kaleidoscope of how we see
- the future or
- what’s going to work and what isn’t
I’ll probably share with you a blog post soon about the value of nutmeg. That doesn’t mean anything to any of us, but it’s a very powerful lesson in life.
So, as you’re building a great team, make sure you completely honor the fact that different, very highly-skilled, very intelligent people all recall and think about things in different ways. This is what makes for robust teams and robust dialogue.