Thinking Out Loud

Numbers in Three Dimensions

My brother is a math whiz, has a strong logical mind, and once said, “I use the language of logic and math to communicate what I see in the visual-spatial realm.” Of course I was intrigued and had an intuitive sense of what he was describing but it’s so far from my personal experience that I was also baffled.

Working with management teams in businesses and organizations, I’ve often encountered people in finance who remind me of my brother, and recently I heard a description of processing in the logical and visual-spatial realms that was especially illuminating and intriguing. While talking about his role and confusion about communicating effectively with others in the organization, the CFO said, “I think in spread sheets, only they’re three dimensional. I can picture the numbers but more importantly see how they connect to the different areas of the organization, how they all relate to each other.” This was a bit of a show stopper for the team members.

What was he really saying? He understands the bigger picture around the finances of the organization because he can visualize how everything relates through money. He sees these numerical relationships in three dimensions.

Because no one else in the room does that, the CFO needs to find a way to communicate his ideas about finances in a way the others can understand. How to do that became a collaborative, trial and error process, and this in itself—discussing what everyone needed to achieve understanding—became a team-building activity.

Collaboration around the Communication Styles Framework is by its nature non-threatening. The conversation that evolved for this team was as important as the solutions they discovered because the discovery process taught them about each other within a problem-solving paradigm that they can replicate in other situations. This type of problem-solving most often results in durable and transferable solutions, so when another complex situation arises that requires good communication, they can draw on this experience to guide them to success.

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