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See the Big Picture: Know Your Twitch Types

Tennis was the only sport I wasn’t completely horrible at – and I played when I was a kid, in high school and a little in college. In fact, when I took it up again in my late 30’s my coach (the fabulous Pete Lutze, Tennis on the Lake!) said I possessed some natural talent for it. Having always been the last kid picked for teams throughout my entire school life, this made me happy. (Plus, tennis is one of the few sports that has really cute outfits.)

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However, the main thing I lacked was speed. Pete used to joke that I had glue on the bottom of my shoes.

He then explained to me the difference between fast twitch and slow twitch muscles.

Which at the time I thought was a bunch of malarkey but I would accept any outside excuse for my slowness.

I looked it up. And indeed, to state it simply, fast twitch muscles are for sprinters, and slow for long distance running. Because fast twitch muscles provide speed. Slow ones provide endurance. Cheetah vs. horse. Most people have an equal combination of both but some have more of one type than the other. My guess is I have more slow twitch muscles.

Stay with me – I am getting to a business point!

I recently read an article from an expert on conducting productive brainstorming sessions. He wrote that there are fast twitch and slow twitch thinkers.

Fast twitch thinkers are quick to come up with multiple ideas right away and are not hesitant to verbalize them and expect instant dialogue. Slow twitch thinkers like to process ideas before moving on to another one. They need time to internally process.

Guess which one I am?

If you come up to me and throw a bunch of ideas and options at me, I need you to go away so I can think and then I’ll come up with a response. This does drive some people nuts – especially in brainstorming and ideation meetings.

A colleague asked me if I was bored or not paying attention in brainstorming sessions because I didn’t contribute enough. That was not the problem. Actually I think her exact words were that it made me “look stupid in front of client.”

It was because while the fasties were expressing their ideas one after another, I was still thinking about the first few. Writing things down, doing some word webbing, making connections and mulling things over. While the team was discussing idea number 15, I would bring them back to the second one and create more ideas around that.

Chances are, your teams are made up of both kinds of thinkers, too.

To get the most out of meetings, don’t let the fast twitchers monopolize the conversation. The slow twitchers can’t get a word in edge wise. Ask them directly what they think. And don’t be annoyed when they take you back to an earlier conversation because they have come up with something related but perhaps newer or better. It also helps to give the topic ahead of time.

So yes, we are paying attention. And thinking. And taking ideas into new areas. Be prepared for both types in your meetings to get the most out of your team.

Telling me I play like I have glue on the bottom of my feet isn’t going to make me sprint way over there any faster. But I can nail you in the bean from just about anywhere on the court. (Right, Pete?)