Are You a Cat or Dog Person?

Are You a Cat or Dog Person?

The other day, while driving to an appointment, I was listening to Marketplace on NPR. There was a feature on a unique tip jar strategy employed by the Rize Coffee Shop in Midtown Manhattan. Rather than just place a single jar by the register, they placed two. Between the two jars, they would pose a question. For example, “Are you a Cat or Dog Person?” The jars would be labeled “Cat” and “Dog” and you would vote by where you place your money. They are unsure if it actually increased tips but what it does illustrate is the very human tendency to want to be identified with some group or value. We label others and ourselves constantly; Democrat, Republican, Entrepreneur, Executive. The list goes on and on.

It narrows our view and clouds our objectivity

The risk in self-identification is that it becomes a construct, a paradigm for absorbing information. It narrows our view and clouds our objectivity. It can lead to intolerance, which in extreme cases, such as this past week in Charleston, can have horrific consequences. The more common and mundane impact of this behavior is that it limits a leader’s ability to adapt, innovate or pivot. The paradigm that sustains your self-identity by nature restricts your receptivity. Creative and out of the box thinking is blocked by “the wall” that surrounds your self-identity.

The paradigm that sustains your self-identity by nature restricts your receptivity.

To avoid this common pitfall, try thinking from the other side of “the wall”. It is a routine occurrence, when working with a client in ideation sessions, for new thinking to brought forward only to be met with the default response that “it won’t work”. That may be true and accurate, but I still challenge that individual to think from the other side of “the wall”. I ask them to provide me with as many reasons as to why it will work as were offered for why it would not. The more rooted that person is in their self-belief the more challenging this exercise proves. Sweat beads on their brow, blood drains from their face and there is often a long pause. But then, the ideas spring forth. The outcome may not change, but the process begins to breakdown their resistance. It begins to help them see and feel open-mindedness. This process works in both directions. It is helpful to let the person promoting the solution play the role of the contrarian.

This is something you can employ yourself. When someone brings a new thought forward that you feel won’t work, don’t just offer the rote response. Take the time and let it ruminate. I suggest if time allows, telling them that you will give it some thought and get back to them. Then take a sheet of paper and in one column write all the reasons it won’t work and then challenge yourself to write as many reasons as to why it might. Once complete, decide on the best course of action and share that decision with the idea’s originator. Offer them some insight as to your rationale. By taking the time to work through this process, not only will you help challenge and breakdown any of your restrictive constructs, you will also make the employee who brought forth the idea feel cared for, heard, valued and respected.

We all  use our personal filter to process information. I am not a behaviorist, so I am unsure of the origins as to why we have such a natural propensity to self-identify as either a wine drinker or a beer drinker, a beach person or a mountain person. I just know that we do and we can’t seem to help ourselves. What is important is that we make this visible, by challenging these beliefs and push them into the light.  Otherwise, we risk having blind spots that can limit our open-mindedness and therefore, our efficacy. Now, let’s have some fun. Time to feed our natural tendency to self-identify. In the comment section below answer the question, are you a cat or a dog person? For me, it has evolved with age and life situation, but as of now, I would self-identify as a cat person.

Thanks for reading.

I find this concept fascinating and would welcome a deeper conversation. If you are interested, please click here and we can set up a time to talk.

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