Where am I sitting? Seating Based on Thinking Preference


Last week I was lucky enough to be the main speaker at the International Leadership Seminar – held in Bali.


It was organised by the 1st Bank of Indonesia and focused on the Economic Leadership Effectiveness and Agility in the VUCA World.

I was talking on Thinking Agility and Mental Diversity. With close to 100 people attending, I had both. And I was able to use it to create a powerful learning environment.

Everyone had completed their HBDI as pre-work, so I knew the thinking preferences of everyone in the room. Using the information, I created ‘whole brain’ tables of 6 to 8 people each. Each table had both the thinking agility and diversity I needed to really enhance the learning.

It also meant there was a lively discussion, and a bit of creative abrasion, at every table on almost every topic.


In The Whole Brain Business Book, Ned Herrmann shares a story of the “aha” moment that came from just such a seating exercise. Presenting to a leadership group of a large company, he had assigned people to tables based on preferences (unbeknownst to the participants), and it turned out that the company’s chairman/CEO and president/COO had opposing profiles.

Elected as spokespeople for their respective tables to discuss the kinds of work they really loved and were energized by, it was almost as if they were speaking directly to each other, Ned recalled, as the “source of their 15 years of arguments and differences of opinion and frustration was being revealed.”

They realized they had a huge opportunity they were missing out on because they hadn’t been appreciating and taking advantage of their differences and cognitive diversity. It was not only a memorable public demonstration of the consequences of thinking preferences at work but also the beginning of a true partnership between the two leaders.

For HBDI® Practitioners out there, what’s been your experience with seating based on thinking preference? How has it affected the learning process and outcomes?


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