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  • Writer's pictureBeyond Team

Reading between the lines

Updated: Mar 21

Why you need to read or revisit Surrounded by Idiots: The Four Types of Human Behaviour (or, How to Understand Those Who Cannot Be Understood)

If you haven’t yet come across this book by Thomas Erikson, I can’t recommend it enough. But perhaps not for the reasons you might think! Yes, it provides an ‘aha!’ moment in terms of more effective communication within your business, but it also helps you put your data to work more effectively. And therein lies its true value.

Doubtless you will be familiar with Myer Briggs or Insights Discovery, both personality tests that classify people in the workplace by the traits they display. They were a popular part of the recruitment process back in the 90s and early 2000s. But where this book differs is that it makes little of the science behind the classification; instead it focuses on recognising your own and other’s behaviours and provides strategies to help you change the way you communicate so that you can work and interact better with people that display different traits to your own.

Like Discovery Insights it uses colours to typify personality types:

  • Reds: Ambitious, boisterous, commanding

  • Blue: Quiet, analytical, precise Yellow: Social, creative, optimistic

  • Green: Calm, reliable, considerate

That’s all great, but why is this relevant to data?, you might ask. Well, having reread this book, I believe that getting under the skin of how people differ, recognising their personality traits and understanding how and why they express themselves in the way they do requires the same skillset you need to successfully work with data.

Perhaps your ultimate goal is driving some kind of performance improvement; such as cost reduction, better quality, deriving greater value or enhancing the customer experience using new insight derived through data analysis or automated decision making as recommended by an algorithm developed through cutting edge AI or machine learning. However, for most people data is invisible. Therefore, trying to convince them to change their mindset or alter the way they do things based on intangibles is an uphill battle. Challenging the status quo because data insight provides a different picture to the long-accepted business intelligence means you can very quickly find yourself in deep water, swimming against the tide, fighting to be heard as your colleagues naturally push back against new ideas and change. And this is where understanding personality traits comes in. Recognising the types of people that you are working with and how best to communicate your new ideas to them is a powerful tool to help you achieve that end goal.

At the end of the day value only gets realised when change happens. Customers don’t magically alter their behaviour. To get them to buy more frequently, increase their spend, engage more, means the business must do something to trigger this. And that change, like it or not, requires the people in your organisation to make it happen.

Your data and your data efforts are worthless without the people to affect change. Failing to bring people on the journey means you can’t realise the outcomes you need. The old adage your success is a team effort is true. Which is why you need to understand your stakeholders as well as, if not better than, you do your data. And this book will get you on your way.



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