Right…grab a piece of paper and a pen.
Do it now before reading on…
OK, draw a picture of a hand on that piece of paper…
It doesn’t matter if you’re not an artist…just draw it.
Good! Read on…
Let me ask you…did you look at your own hand to draw the picture? No? You’re in good company because, in this exercise, we find most people don’t look at their own hand first. Why?
Because most people prefer to work with a mental picture even though the real world is staring them in the face. We think with these mental pictures and we frequently base our performance on these illusions. Psychologists call the act of creating mental pictures generalization, abstraction, or concept acquisition. You might want to call it stereotyping.
It isn’t that important if you drew the hand based on your mental picture or by looking at your other hand as you drew it. What is more important is if you decide on team processes or company policy based on the stereotypes or generalisations you carry in your head.
You may have a distorted picture, based on your current thought processes or conditioning that will cause you to think the same way as you did last time you carried out the process. What could be the consequences?
Well, your decision may not produce the desired results you hoped for, as the process may not be in line with the way your team views the situation. Your perception may be true in your eyes, but because you have been conditioned that way, you may not see reality as seen through others’ eyes.
So, take a few moments before making a decision today to see if it’s based on how you generalise situations (stereotyping) or if it’s an up-to-date viewpoint based on taking a look at the real world.
Take another look at your drawing…did you copy your other hand? Or did you stereotype?
Food for thought!
Originally published: 30 July, 2010