When Worlds Collide

We are all a blend of various personality types and that is a good thing. 


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There is a tendency for people to “slot” other people. “Pigeon-holing” is the more common expression. This is done often in an effort to simplify and out of pure laziness. Once a person is slotted, there is no need to exert any mental energy to find out if anything about the person has changed.

The truth is, people are always changing, growing, falling back, moving forward, and then maybe backward. People are dynamic. The fact that a pigeon-hole is static makes it popular because it requires no further maintenance by outsiders. It’s set, and in some cases in business, I’ve seen it last as long as a person’s career. The jungle beat of an organization can often perpetuate the presumption.

In a way, slotting and pigeon-holing are much akin to stereotyping. It’s often said that stereotyping usually contains a grain of truth, however, it too, refuses to recognize the dynamics of those being stereotyped. Some of these conceptions are decades and even centuries old.

Working for a media company such as mine presents an interesting intersection of what many would consider relatively polar worlds. Expressions such as “right hemisphere and left hemisphere” exist to basically pigeon-hole the way people think. One hemisphere is creative and the other is analytic. There it is—simple and easy. But really not true.

The people who dwell in my side of the manufacturing business, producing technical content for an audience of technical-minded readers, represent pigeon-holes. But I like to think our coops have picture windows. I say this because, in reality, none of us is completely one way or another when it comes to how we think about things.

A case in point is my colleague, Jeff. Jeff is the creative director for our company, and with that title, many of you I bet have begun slotting him. Maybe subliminally, but my guess is he’s in a slot somewhere in your mind. I might add, that possible slot is probably accurate based on what you know so far about Jeff. It’s true that he is a creative person and yet is able to parlay that creativity to others in his department as their director. Are you still happy with your slot?

In his 10 years at Gardner Business Media, Jeff and I have become friends. Part of that is because, in what’s becoming increasingly rare, we both smoke, so we take smoke breaks together and talk about things, many things. We’ve gotten to know one another, and over time, learn from each other.

Jeff was born in Wyoming and raised in the west. He possesses an individualism typically ascribed to a “cowboy,” along with strong opinions. But what I find most compelling about Jeff and interesting with regard to his pigeon-hole as “creative” is his curiosity. I’ve learned from our conversations that Jeff is a graphic designer trapped in a gear-head’s body. The man wants to know how things work.

Perhaps it’s Karma, but Jeff gravitated to a job that dovetails nicely with his inner engineer. Our company is about creating compelling content for manufacturing and, in my case, writing about products and services available to producers of precision machined parts. Most of the equipment we cover is CNC driven. Jeff has been exposed to this technology in an abstract way through his directing of the process of our publications, collateral materials and online content.

Tangential exposure to CNC manufacturing was not enough for Jeff. In his new house, he has set up a shop of sorts as a practical outlet for his creative side. In it is a CNC router, laser cutter and an industrial 3D printer. This pigeon is trying to fly.

The machine tools are able to produce objects in wood that Jeff dreams up. I’ve seen some, and they are remarkable. His left hemisphere and right hemisphere are becoming a globe. For me, monitoring this development process—from questions asking what is a Cartesian coordinate system, to how does deflection make my part out of spec—has been a blast.

Jeff has become “of the body” because he understands machining from a machinist’s perspective. That understanding comes from wondering about stuff and how it works. Jeff is one of us because he has equipped himself with the skills and tools that can make his creations real and useful. I’ve enjoyed watching and being a small part of Jeff’s journey. Paraphrasing the most interesting man in the world: “Stay curious, my friends.”