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Understanding People to Improve Collaboration in Teams


Teams consist of individuals working together. Individuals have their own specific beliefs and perceptions. If you know where a person’s perceptions are coming from, you can better understand why they see things different than you do and behave in a certain way. Being able to understand people helps to find better ways to collaborate and communicate in teams.

The Insights Discovery system can be used to understand individual behavior. Jo Krill from Insights Benelux facilitated a workshop at Dare Festival Antwerp 2014 where he explained the system and did a couple of exercises with teams.

The system uses four distinct colors which are used to represent the preferred energy of people:

  • Fiery Red: As a stereotype this color refers to people who have a preference to be extrovert, direct, demanding, authoritative and have a lot of energy. They take actions and go straight to their goal. They have a desire for power and control.
  • Sunshine Yellow: People who are also extrovert, but they focus on good human relations in stead of being target oriented. They are flexible and see many ways to get to a goal. They love team spirit and hate rules.
  • Earth Green: People who are introvert and prefer listening, they focus on values and relationships. They want to take well informed decisions, it’s important for them to create understanding and that people feel ok.
  • Cool Blue: These are people who want to know and understand things, introverts who take time to analyze. They aim for very high quality, you have to do it right. Make a plan and stick to the plan.

On a stressful or bad day, people often react differently. People who have a preference for Fiery Red can be intolerant, overbearing or aggressive. Sunshine Yellow people can be flamboyant, indiscreet or hasty. People with a preference for Earth Green can be stubborn, reliant or plodding, while Cool Blue people can be indecisive, cold or reserved.

It is important to state that people have all 4 energies available, but they have a preference for one, two or even three color energies, said Jo. This is dependent on the working context.

The room at the Dare Festival was setup with tables, each one having 4-8 attendants. All attendants received a set of colored discovery cards. Jo started the first exercise by asking the attendants to read the colored cards and decide which one they preferred most, which one would be second, third and last. Attendants then took turns to tell a story to the people at their table in which they explained which colors they preferred and why.

After the exercise Jo asked the people what came up and how they experienced the exercise. Several attendants stated that they found it a nice way to get acquainted with people and learn about them. People were able to experience the different preferences and understood that sometimes adapting and connecting is difficult if we do not understand were someone is coming from (which color energy is dominating). Jo explained that whatever comes up now in the exercise is not where you will stay the rest of your life. People come from somewhere and they go somewhere, their preferences will change.

Next Jo talked about the psychological types from Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist. He presented three preferences that Jung had described:

  • How we react to experiences - introversion and extroversion
  • How we make decisions – thinking and feeling
  • How we take in and process information – sensation and intuition

Jo asked the attendants to think about how they express their energy most of the time. They had to decide if they have a preference for introversion or for extroversion. All the people who preferred introversion gathered at one flip chart, while those who preferred extroversion came together at another flip chart. Then he asked the two groups to work together to write down as many prejudices as that could think of from the other attitude, both positive and negative. So the introverts wrote down words which for them defined what extroverts are and vice versa.

One spokesperson from group of extroverts was asked to read all the prejudices that they came up with about introversion out loud in front of the group of introverts, and then one person of the introverts groups read all the prejudices about extroversion. Jo asked the attendants how they felt about this. Some said that they recognized and agreed with the prejudices, but others stated that they found them to be incorrect and didn’t like hearing them. Most of the prejudices turned out to be negative although Jo had explicitly asked the attendants to write down both positive and negative prejudices. The exercise showed how judgmental we sometimes are towards people who have a different preference and what we might learn from that. For example for extroverts to count to 10 before they react (because they tend to talk a lot) and for introverts to take responsibility to be heard (because they tend to wait – sometimes too long – before they talk).

To wrap up the workshop Jo concluded that it is important to understand differences between people, and to keep them in mind when you work together. People should recognize and understand the strengths of other people and take that into account. And they might adapt and connect with each other, because only understanding is not enough. For instance by giving introverts time to read things so that they can come to an opinion, and don’t expect that extroverts will read everything that you sent to them. Being able to understand people can improve collaboration and communication in teams.

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