Ice BreakerThe PD as Ice Breaker can be used in a few of different contexts. It often serves to set the climate for additional, related activities following a PD administration, and as such is often used as part of a larger PD process. It may also be used to help people get out of the “test taking” mode and to relax a bit before dismissing them from the PD session (this is particularly useful when the PD is being used primarily for data gathering rather than to generate discussion in the session itself). The Ice Breaker application of the PD can also be useful as means to get people out of their normal way of thinking and interacting, and setting a tone of enthusiasm and involvement leading into other, less directly related activities. The Ice Breaker process follows a PD administration, with “neighbors” in the room comparing names they have given to the pictures. We have found that participants burst with enthusiasm when provided an opportunity to share their picture names with others. The Ice Breaker also tends to ease any tension that may have been present, allowing for greater levels of productivity in the following activities. Used in situations where it is purely for setting the tone of a meeting or group session (i.e., the PD data is not being used for some larger purpose), the topic(s) may be chosen either to address the participants’ perceptions of why they’re there, or simply to generate some fun discussion.
Whole Brain Decision MakingWhole Brain Decision Making (WBDM) is particularly useful when two or more already determined alternatives are being considered (the alternative selections may have been inspired by PD Finder and/or PD Associations activities). The PD can be used to help evaluate the alternatives by tapping into deeper levels of understanding and perception. It recruits the intuitive, right-brain, holistic evaluation to augment the logical, pro/con evaluation as part of the decision making process. Given the fact that there are so many cognitive bases for making decisions (e.g., income, keep my partner happy, make maximum return on investment, make me happy, do what is right, etc.) and that they all result in emotional consequences for us, WBDM is an avenue toward discovering if what you really want is rationally defensible. This is because WBDM compares results from the PD with your best rational analyses of the choice. The protocol is to use PD and rational methods independently and compare results. If they agree, go for it. If they don’t agree, look again.
“Finder” mode is very similar to and an extension of Associations, in that it is focused on discovering new or hidden perceptions about the working topics, but directed toward some specific practical application rather than the more open-ended discovery of Associations.
When using the PD in Finder mode, there will usually be some reference to an ideal or goal (e.g., an ideal product, or the best the organization can become) against which the existing situation (e.g., new product proposals, or the organization as it currently is). In Finder mode, the PD is used to explore the deeply held feelings and perceptions about the working topics, particularly as they compare to the reference topics.
- How different is the topic from the ideal?
- In what ways is it different from the ideal?
- What does this tell us is needed to make it more like the ideal?
- What does this tell us about what’s keeping us from our goal?
Because the PD acts as an alogical amplifier – amplifying the sometimes ineffable perceptions that transcend logical thought and evaluation processes – it provides new avenues for exploration and discussion that can lead to better (e.g., closer to ideal) solutions.
One way in which the PD has been used in this mode is with focus groups, evaluating marketing and advertising campaigns to see how well the campaign materials generated the kind of emotional response and associations intended.
The PD is used in Associations mode when the goal is to learn more about how people perceive and feel about a topic or group of topics. In addition to collecting the responses to uncover attitude towards and identification with the topics, degree of consensus and INcongruity, additional activities are used to develop a deeper appreciation made available by the PD responses.
A PD session will generate epitomizing and antithetical pictures for the topics being assessed – PD pictures, abstract and evocative as they are, act as an alogical amplifier – amplifying the sometimes ineffable perceptions that transcend logical thought and evaluation processes.
Typical questions for opening up exploration and discussion include:
- How is the epitomizing picture like the topic?
- How is the antithetical picture not like the topic?
- What are the consequences of a high level of INcongruence, or a low level of consensus on these topics?
- In what ways is the antithetical picture like the topic?
In larger group sessions it is also often quite useful to have participants break into smaller groups based on their epitomizing picture choices for a topic in order to allow for some deeper discussion before taking it on as one large group. This can be done by grouping people by same epitomizing pictures or different epitomizing pictures, depending upon whether you’re wanting to emphasize similarities or dissimilarities.
All of these associations between the topics and the images can greatly enhance understanding of the deep feelings towards and perceptions of the topics. There are usually several unexpected ways, easily surfacing into awareness, in which the picture deeply relates to the Topic. These associations are often rich, and their discovery is another unique and useful feature of the PD.
Coaching Dyads/TriadsReciprocal relationships (boss/subordinates, husband/wife, interdependent departments, business partners, etc.) can be challenging. Sometimes, despite the best intentions of both sides, the relationship becomes strained and neither really understands or fully appreciates the other’s perspective, making working together difficult, at best. The PD can help to break through some of the challenges by tapping into a deeper level of awareness to uncover a group’s (or one’s) perceptions of ones’ own group (or oneself) and of the opposite cohort. By better understanding what’s going on below the surface of awareness, and shedding light on those unconscious perceptions, opportunities for new understanding and appreciation become available, the dialogue changes, providing avenues for improving the relationship. The PD uncovers:
- the degree to which groups (or individuals) see each other similarly
- the degree to which groups (or individuals) see the others they way the others see themselves
- the degree to which they see their purpose similarly
One of the quickest ways to shut down a brainstorming session, and the creative process in general, is to allow the analytical, judging, left-brain processes into the game too early. Tapping into the creative, symbolic, right-brain processes can be a challenge for many, and even more difficult when in a group where, invariably, someone will let their left-brain judge verbalize its thoughts.
The PD facilitates the creative process necessary to a valuable brainstorming session by tapping into the right-brain, symbolic processing directly. “Out of the box” thinking is fostered through the participants’ intuitive responses to the PD’s abstract images. As patterns emerge, and discussion of the meaning of the images chosen ensues, new possibilities arise, often with far less judgment attached in the early stages due to their source.*
*Often, participants experience “Ah-ha’s” regarding their image choices as they begin to explore what the images suggest to them.
Process InterventionWorkgroups and teams don’t always perform at the level one might expect given the talents of the individual members. Sometimes performance issues have obvious causes, such as personality conflicts; but, often the root causes aren’t so readily apparent. By getting below the surface of conscious awareness, the PD can uncover hidden causes of problems in team dynamics and performance. When workgroups or teams are not performing at the level expected, the PD can be used as an intervention technique:
- help teams get “unstuck”
- uncover and address unconscious stumbling blocks/resistance
- facilitate the creative process/creative problem solving
- reveal intuitive evaluations of solutions/plans/strategies
M&A Cultures AssessmentDepending on how success is defined – whether by shareholder value, customer satisfaction, employee retention, etc. – research indicates that the failure rate for mergers is between 50% and 80%. Regardless of the definition of success, the suggestion is that more than half do not live up to the expectations that were the rationale for the merger in the first place. There are several reasons for failed mergers, among them overpayment, inaccurate assessment of the expected synergies, and cultural conflict. The projective differential can be used to help assess the people and culture related issues at any point in the process:
- Understanding the ways in which the cultures differ can lead to a more accurate assessment of whether they can be blended, and if so, what steps will need to be taken.
- Uncovering the areas/departments within organizations that will require more attention or provide unanticipated champions in the process of merging organizations with different cultures can help to target your efforts and increase the likelihood of success.
For a change project to be truly successful, you need to have buy-in from the people making the change. How do you know if you’ve really captured the hearts and minds of those who will determine success or failure? How do you know if everyone understands the project, the process, and the goals in the same way?
You can ask. Perhaps you hold “town hall” meetings to communicate the changes and gauge the level of understanding and buy-in. But people don’t always do what they say they’ll do, they don’t always say what they mean, and sometimes they don’t even know what they really feel.
The Projective Differential gets below the surface, to uncover the deeper, implicit attitudes and perceptions that affect people’s behavior. By understanding what’s going on below the surface, you can take better predict where you’re going to have problems with people, and know where you may have silent allies. Knowing how people are seeing things at a deeper level, you can make adjustments and take action before those unconscious attitudes start creating problems.
The PD can be used to improve planning and implementation of change projects ranging from small-scale departmental reorganizations to the merging of two large organizations with distinct cultures.
- assess readiness for change
- determine the degree of “buy-in” for a particular plan
- uncover areas of resistance
- reveal silent allies
- pre/mid/post assessment/check-up