A question that often arises when discussing Brain Profiles is the degree to which your profile defines your every moment. Is it, for instance, something that sets forth the pattern of your behaviour in a day in a manner that will be immediately obvious to everyone around you? Or is it something that plays out over time, not necessarily obvious in every interaction that you may have with people? Let’s delve …
I’ll Volunteer My Brain …
The NBI Brain Profiles typically show you your ‘4 Quadrant’ profile and people will speak of which quadrants you appear to have a stronger preference for, e.g. mine are R1 and R2 as shown below, the top right and bottom right quadrants. But that doesn’t mean that someone who comes across me in the course of their day will necessarily work that out from the word go.
(If you’re new to Brain Profiles, have a quick look at a summary image of the basic profile characteristics.)
If you work with me you will, over time, see that I value new ideas quite highly and that I am someone who feels that human dynamics are a critical part of the culture. I could be described as a ‘people oriented manager’. So all very consistent with an R1 / R2 profile.
Yet if you catch me in a meeting where the team is way behind schedule and we now sit with a crisis and a short deadline, I am unlikely to come across as overly casual. In fact, you might think quite the opposite. I may be pushing people for inputs, quickly summarising them and moving on to actions, all the while leaving people somewhat in my wake as I try and deliver the answer for the client. I may be described as anything but R2 because, in the circumstances, I didn’t feel that an overly casual style was going to help us get there in the time.
But if you observe me over time, you will see that my behaviours / style of thinking fit the R1 / R2 pattern of what the profile says. Just don’t expect me, at any singular moment in time though, to be displaying any particular mode of thinking more than another.
So, in that sense, a Brain Profile is kind of statistical, it tells you the degree to which you likely spend your time between the different modes of thinking. And that is why the score you get by adding up the points allocated to each quadrant always come to a fixed number (300). It is not a competence assessment that sees some people scoring a higher total than others, everyone scores 300 and these points are distributed amongst the 4 quadrants in a way that reflects your ‘relative preference’ for each quadrant.
So, to get a feel for the topic of this post, of whether or not your Brain Profile determines your every move, let’s look at some examples of how my behaviours may appear to either support or negate what the profile says.
The Clues To My Profile Are There If You Look
If you were to come into my office, you would spot some clues as to my profile … there are pictures of my family that are situated close to where I work, just off to one side of where I sit at my PC. I like them close at hand and I notice them often. Oops, that R2 just shines through eh.
But if I had a low R2 I might find I still have pictures of my family but that they’ll just be across the room, perhaps on a shelf or on the wall, more formally mounted. I wouldn’t want them so ‘in my face’.
You will also find a series of framed certificates for awards relating to social activities that I have driven to get colleagues together … more R2 shining through … and you will see that often they reference a range of wacky sounding social ideas, quite out the box compared to the average work social in the tea room … the creative ideas side of my R1 shining through in this case. Not to mention the certificate on a creativity course I taught in the company with a highly creative colleague that ranked so well in the course delegate’s experience. I just loved doing that course!
But You May Also Spot Contradictions
My Brain Profile does not show a strong preference for the L2 mode (the more structured side of life, bottom left quadrant in the above image). In fact, it shows it as my least preferred mode of thinking. So why, you might ask, do I have such a strong interest in something structured like the GTD approach to personal productivity? Surely I would be the kind of person who would avoid such a system like the plague?
Well, if you’d known me a few years ago, before I started out with David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ (GTD) methodology (as detailed here), you would have become aware of my low L2 preference quite quickly based on the general mess that was my office and the trouble I had trying to find ways to track multiple tasks to their deadlines.
But see my office now and you would think that I’m probably very strong in my preference for L2 type thinking … my desk is virtually empty apart from the PC, telephone and in-basket and there is no clutter around the office. I also follow the structure of the GTD method in a way that might suggest I consider behaviours linked to the L2 style of thinking as the be-all and end-all of human existence … yet it is my least preferred mode! And when a colleague comes back to you to compliment you on delivering things on time suddenly, you’ve got to know that you have started to learn new skills despite your preferences!
So why do I do exhibit traits of an L2 thinker? In my case it’s because my responsibilities were ever increasing, the deadlines ever shorter and the stress ever present. So I had to find a way to learn skills in an area that was my lowest preference. I could no longer just accept being somewhat disorganised and to pass it off as acceptable because everyone around me seemed to be similarly disorganised. I had to learn skills in the L2 department and GTD provided me with just the L2 injection that I needed. Suddenly I had a way to cope with a natural lack of structure in my life and I managed to put it on to cruise control. I now didn’t get bothered by the results of my low preference, instead, I had overcome the result of it by learning a new skill.
And so, immediately, you will get a feeling that even though my Brain profile sends you a very strong R1 / R2 message, that does not mean that I am in any way limited by it. In fact, with conscious effort, it can be quite the opposite. So ‘I am still my profile‘ … I continue to have a low preference for L2 … it’s just that I now use GTD to overcome the impact in my life of that low preference. It hasn’t gone away!
Would You Spot My Profile Through What I’m Good At?
The quadrants in which we have our strongest preferences might at first appear to be the ones where we will have our greatest skills. But that is not necessarily true. For sure we are more likely to go in search of new learning in an area of natural interest but it doesn’t mean we have developed skill at it.
I know in my case, as much as my rapid-fire, idea-generating side, that ability to always make quick connections between disparate pieces of information, was always quite active with that high R1, it didn’t mean that I understood anything about the processes by which creative ideas could be produced using formal techniques. Or how to best work with teams of people to generate new ideas. Knowledge and resulting abilities in these aspects only came after I discovered the world of creativity after attending a lecture by Dr. Edward de Bono. And wow, did that lecture awaken something inside of me!
My thirst for knowledge on his techniques was immense and I quickly devoured some of his books and started to use his principles by myself and with teams at work. So my natural leaning towards R1 thinking was what made me so receptive to de Bono’s teachings but I still had to go out and practise them before I could claim any skill at them.
So whilst my profile might suggest an interest in ideas almost for the sake of ideas, that doesn’t mean that your experience of me day to day would necessarily have been consistent in that regard before I started learning the skills. So ‘I am my profile’ but perhaps not fully realising all the skills that could go with it!
Do My Low Preferences Limit Me?
Well, if it’s not obvious yet, you need to have a healthy suspicion that there may just be a blind spot lurking in your life, one indicated by a quadrant where you have a low preference. Possibly not, but then again, it’s worth a look! Hopefully, my description above of my life before I started GTD, will have already convinced you of this!
So if you see, for instance, that you have a low R2 (preference for people orientation), ask yourself if you are not perhaps keeping to yourself a little too much in the work environment. As a low R2 you won’t be looking necessarily for the company or approval of others but that doesn’t mean that others don’t have the need to see more of you. Perhaps you are in a supervisory position and people would welcome more frequent interaction and feedback? Perhaps you are running a project and after the weekly meeting disappear into your office to work on your tasks, only to emerge 7 days later at the next weekly review meeting? You might find that what the work environment would benefit from is not in tune with your natural preference and so some conscious intervention into your own behaviour can pay off.
Pursuit of behaviours in this manner mean that you will start learning skills in all 4 quadrants of your Brain Profile and not limit yourself to your naturally preferred areas. This is referred to as becoming more ‘whole-brained’. Teams are usually more productive when they have a range of thinking styles within them and this explains, in part, why teams can often achieve more than an individual because they see more perspectives and bring more thinking styles to bear on the problem. But nothing stops you, by yourself, spotting your tendencies that result from your least preferred quadrants and looking to make a deliberate effort to become more active in them.
Over time you will likely start to develop skills in them and they will become part of your portfolio of talents and a filling in of your blind spots starts to take place. In other words, if you truly use your Brain Profile, you will work to move beyond its initial pattern.
Bringing It All Together
So, in the above examples, you will see that there are clues to my Brain Profile in the things that I do but that it may not always be obvious to someone around me at any given moment what my profile actually is. You have to “spot the clues” as they say and assimilate the inputs you get from me … but you will spot them if you are observant.
The clues might be there in the way I dress, whether I am seen to always doodle pictures in meetings, whether I choose to stand close to someone as I speak, whether I freely share personal information about my weekend with you on a Monday morning, whether I have a big need to always state things factually and not beat around the bush, whether I use metaphors in my explanations, whether I actively seek out others at work or whether I do my best to avoid company socials because I just don’t like being around so many people and having to make small talk.
My favourite phrase for describing what you observe about the thinking styles / behaviours of others comes from the NBI Brain Profile creator Dr. Kobus Neethling who says that ‘you can see the profiles playing out‘. That kind of captures it for me, the phrase ‘play out’ suggests that, over time, you will see the effects, just possibly not in the few minutes you spend with me.
So, have a think about your own Brain Profile and how you can see it playing out in your day to day interactions and activities … analysing yourself is probably the best way to start understanding the insights that the technique can give you. And, after understanding yourself better, what fun it can be to start understanding this for the people you spend your time with. The insights can be powerful, for instance just getting a better understanding of one person in your work life and seeing how their patterns of behaviour ‘play out’ can change how well you work together and your appreciation for who they are. And you don’t get much more fundamental than that with the people around you.
So, to answer the original question, yes … ‘I am my Brain Profile’ … but I’m not limited by it … and neither should you be.
I’d love to hear any insights you may have about your own Brain Profile or this post, feel free to comment & share below!
And if you would like to read more about the Brain Profiling approach, check the articles on the Chameleon Brain website menu. You can even get your own profile done through this site.
The NBI Brain Profiling assessment and associated literature / logos are copyright of Dr. Kobus Neethling and his company Solutions Finding and are used on the Chameleon Brain website with permission and much gratitude 🙂