Parallel Thinking LO20241

John Gunkler (
Mon, 21 Dec 1998 10:36:07 -0600

Replying to LO20226 --

Keith asked me if I had noticed, when there are distinct differences of
opinion within a group, if there were (within the groups sharing opinion)
common aspects of background, experience, or job.

Keith, one of the things we often do is get "demographic" information on
the participants. This allows the software (OptionFinder) to display how
the various groups differ on any question we ask.

I follow the preferences of my client as to which demographics to take, so
we don't always ask about experience or background or job, but when we
often do.

I'm sorry to tell you (guessing your reaction), that we usually find that
differences in experience, background, job, gender, etc., etc., make much
LESS difference in how people respond than the client expects. This isn't
to say that we haven't seen such differences -- only that they are not
nearly as explanatory of the differences of opinion within groups as
people expect them to be.

As I read my response, it seems convoluted. Does it make sense? If not,
read the following (fairly typical) example:

The client asserts (prior to the meeting) that they want to divide the
group by geographical region because they "know" that people from the west
coast have strongly different opinions on the subject of the meeting than
do people from the Midwest, south, or east. However, when we investigate
the patterns of responses during the meeting, we find that regional
differences simply don't exist -- or that differences of opinion within
regions differ more than between regions.

Substitute almost any other "demographic" variable for "region" and the
example has been repeated many times over the past dozen years.

On the other hand, for the kinds of strategic decisions I usually am
dealing with I have frequently seen differences of opinion between central
managers and other managers (or employees), and sometimes see differences
among administrative, R&D, sales/marketing, and production people. I
almost never see differences due to gender nor ethnic group (on these
kinds of judgments.) Once in awhile I see differences between U.S.-based
people and non-U.S. -- but they always relate to actual differences in the
market, or competition, or other factors of the way business is done, not
to some difference in the way people think about things.


"John Gunkler" <>

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