Quietly working– March 25th, 2013 –
When I passed my driving test, I had a couple of advanced driving lessons a few months after. One day I remember particularly well was when my instructor told me I had to provide a running commentary to my driving. It went like this:
“I’m currently driving at 38 miles per hour in a 40 mile an hour limit area. There is a child by the road and moderately close parked cars. I’m approaching a zebra crossing and there are no pedestrians so I’m proceeding with the flow of traffic. Up ahead there is a t-junction, so I check my mirror before slowing and approaching the junction in second gear. Indicating left. I look left and right…”
You get the idea. It’s a good exercise but I couldn’t keep it up for long – especially as someone who doesn’t really like to talk when I’m driving. The aim of the exercise was to put you firmly out of your normal driving preference and teaches you externalise your thinking and focus on your observation, rather than the physical mechanics of driving a vehicle.
Think Do Thinking
A good few years ago, I wrote about my experience with the Myers -Briggs psychometric questionnaire. Whilst the validity, and reliability, of them as a tool for assessing personality is certainly up for debate, I’ve found them useful in understanding my preferences. Probably the most useful to me is highlighting my introverted preference. To clarify: this doesn’t mean I don’t like people, overly concerned with my own thoughts or ability, or am socially outcast. What it means is I prefer – most of the time – activities which are solitary. It’s been that way my whole life. When I look back at the activities I’ve done over the years, they’ll always been solitary: martial arts, athletics (javelin), angling, using computers, drawing and painting. Now, I ride a road bike. Mostly on my own.
When I step outside of my preference – which I do all the time – it takes extraordinary amounts of energy. I’m physically and mentally drained, even if I’m having an amazing time. Simply being outside of my preference has that effect.
More does not equal better
Designing and building websites is a collaborative affair. It takes many people to build some of things we work on, and constant, close client contact is essential in doing so. But, I’d say we do it only when it’s appropriate to the best work given the people involved.
I see plenty of banner waving for collaborative working. Co-designing, pair programming, brainstorming, collaborative workshops. The overwhelming message is that these tools are better for reaching consensus, sharing work, and, ultimately, lead to better work. Well, I’m not so sure that’s the truth. Given my introverted nature, sometimes these activities can rush the process too much. They allow no time for me to think. Instead, I’m sitting there dreading the ‘tell everyone in the room what you do on this project, and a funny anecdote’ question. Yes. That still happens.
For many introverts, this is not good work. And it certainly doesn’t lead to better work.
If you’re one of those people who thrives when working in groups. Someone who gets a real kick out of developing product ideas in a brainstorm environment, or think it’s great co-writing user stories in a room of eight people, plenty of coffee and doughnuts, then great. I’m happy for you. And no doubt, you’ll end up with something you’re very happy with as you prefer to work that way. But, please, stop forcing this way of working on those of us who’d rather not under the notion it’s better.
Personally speaking, a lot of the time, I’d rather listen to what you have to say and go and have a good think.