Parking Lot Tale: A GRIN-type picture book

a parking space

Suppose you are trying to park your car; you’ve found your spot, but the other cars are shifted to the right. How you handle this situation will depend upon your GRIN-type.

Relational Parking

relational evaluation

If you evaluate relationally, you will park midway between your nearest neighbors. You might do this automatically, and might even call it “empathy”.

Institutional Parking

naturally institutional

If you evaluate institutionally, however, you will park midway between the lines. Again, this may be an automatic behavior, but you could reason that other cars come and go; assuming they park properly before you return, your position will be perfect. You are setting a trend!

Gadfly Parking

Gadfly parking

If you evaluate as a gadfly, you will likewise try to set a trend, but each gadfly may have a different trend to set. For example, you might park on less of an angle, pointing-out that the triangle in front of each angled car is wasted space. Are the cars too long to park straight? Maybe we should all buy Smartcars…

Negotiator Parking

Negotiator parking

If you evaluate as a negotiator, then you will aim to maximize the space available to open your driver-side door, so you may shift even further to the right, or, if you are clever, back into the space.

Now suppose it is your job to assign spaces in the corporate parking lot. One option is to segregate the lot by GRIN-type:

Segregated Parking

segregated

It might not be reliable to ask people to identify their GRIN-types—they might pretend to be a different kind of person so as to avoid being judged—but you could monitor actual parking behavior averaged across many days to account for shifts in mood. Then you could assign each employee a space next to other employees who usually park in the same ways.

The Institutional Section

institutional section

Segregation would rescue the naturally institutional employees from having to exit through the passenger side. They would probably appreciate the segregation very much.

The Gadfly Section

gadfly section

The gadfly section would be a mess, of course, but natural gadflies might not mind. The more serious problem with messes is that they swallow up innovation. Gadflies are likely to innovate both the very worst and very best parking strategies, all of which would be lost in the black-hole of gadflydom. This is especially a problem for natural negotiators because negotiation is competitive, and competition gets ugly when there is no supply of innovation to open new paths for competition. Competition can be beneficial, but only if all types work together.

As an example, suppose parking spaces were reassigned each day at random. Eventually, a natural gadfly with a better parking strategy would be surrounded by naturally relational parkers who would automatically imitate it. A natural negotiator driving by would notice the efficiency of the new pattern, and arrange to have all the lines repainted for the entire lot. Then naturally institutional parkers would get (almost) everyone to adopt the new pattern, which would provide a better launching position for the next innovation.

cars parking at the other slant
Parking at the opposite slant leaves an open triangle by each driver-side door

Continuous improvement is the ideal scenario for everyone. That’s what segregation kills. It is no coincidence that measures of the impact of segregation on team effectiveness have focused on design competitions. The measures find that self-segregated design teams win only half as much. Design teams need to innovate to win, so they need evaluative diversity.

The prevailing management strategy today seems to be to privilege a few gadflies like Steve Jobs, and banish the rest to a black-hole. This strategy assumes that we can predict which gadflies will produce the best innovations, but that assumption is false, so excellent innovators get lost, or, worse, promote terrorism.

That’s right—terrorism ultimately comes from segregation, which comes from our frustration with people unlike ourselves. But this frustration, this evaluativism, is all in our attitude. Ultimately, the way to eliminate the frustration, like eliminating racism and sexism, is a change of heart. That may involve disciplining ourselves with policies and education, but the source of the problem is fundamentally inside ourselves—it does not come from guns, technologies, doctrines, or leaders. It cannot be managed through mere assignment of parking spaces.

Our evaluativism—the real problem—is an attitude we nurture all day long through activities as mundane as parking cars. The most healthy thing we can do is to park in our own way but not get frustrated that others park differently. Leaders who wish to promote social health should remind us that we are part of a larger team that uses disagreement to achieve progress. If each of us is true to ourselves, we will experience disagreement that looks a lot like the typical parking lot, shifting from day to day.

Typical parking lot

That’s healthy disagreement—we need to celebrate these disagreements all day long, so we will not develop attitudes which produce segregation and violence.