On Funnels & Filters

“Why does he do that shit?” My caller, an old friend who has learned that I’ll try to answer any question, no matter how complicated, obscure, or expressed with strong emotion, was truly puzzled. When my immediate answer was, “There’s a lot of it going around,” I knew I had heard the same question (albeit, not all expressed so eloquently) too many times that week. A call to action if I ever heard one…

So, why do people do that stuff? Simple. Everything we experience goes through our own personal set of funnels and filters. This is true for all of us, and it presents one huge problem in global human understanding. We do not have the same sets of funnels and filters.

Our funnels take our experiences and motivate us to go down the path that best fits who we really are. They cause us to be as consistent as possible, so that people know what they can count on us to do. How they can expect us to act. And most important, how we will be when we’re with them. They’re the more obvious about us: he’s so organized; she’s always the leader; they’re the friendliest person in town, for example.

It’s the filters that are harder to understand. And they’re what causes those interpersonal problems, so scatologically described by my friend.

Maybe one of yours is being oblivious to the importance of someone else’s funnel. (This is pretty common in the upper reaches of large organizations, where the hardest working and least acknowledged person is the assistant. Why? Because the boss doesn’t see the importance of those little details the assistant follows up on.) Or maybe it’s one that’s even more common, no matter where in the organization your workspace resides: the inability to recognize that other people do not see the world as you do.

You’re probably curious about the answer I gave my friend. (Unless, of course, you never thought of curiosity as something useful. It is, especially if you want innovation in your business. Or romantic life.)

I simply asked her to think about her own funnels and filters and consider how they were influencing her dilemma.

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