S stands for Sensing: An S gathers facts and data
N refers to iNtuition: An N focuses on intuition and the big picture
When working with a team, explaining the meaning and function of Sensing (S) and iNtuition (N) can create some challenges. This part of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) deals with how each type collects and views information. Most people struggle with understanding Sensing and iNtuition. Until they see it in action...
In one workshop I placed each group on opposite ends of the room, S's on one side and N's on the other. Then I asked them to talk about how they gather information. First the Sensing group discussed how they collected it from books, experience, through interviews or via research. The group unanimously agreed that hard numbers and verifiable facts constituted data. They researched the information and were able to cite their sources.
The iNtution group looked bemused. Collectively they communicated that this was a lot of work which they felt was often unnecessary. In fact this group admitted that most of the time they just knew the required information and did not need to research it. If necessary they would find additional data. Some rarely noted their sources. Additionally they explained that they observed trends and patterns. The conclusion was that they just "knew stuff." They looked for just enough information, or relied on what they already knew, to move forward.
That's not data!
The Sensing types looked stunned. Incredulously they exclaimed, "If you cannot verify it or source it, it's not data!" For this group just "knowing it" was not enough. The iNtuitive types were offended. "Of course it's data!"
To bring the groups back together before punches were thrown, we discussed the accuracy of each type's data in general and why both are valid ways to gather information. Sensing people use their five senses. iNtuition people use an additional sixth sense. When asked, the N's all agreed that their information typically was 85 to 95% accurate.
People with a preference for Sensing focus on what they can perceive by their five senses. They are:
- Concrete: need exact facts, are literal, look for the tangible
- Realistic: are sensible and matter-of-fact and seek efficiency
- Practical: pragmatic and results-oriented
- Experiential: prefer hands-on, rely on empirical evidence and trust experience
- Traditional: rely on the conventional, customary and tried-and-true
People with a preference for iNtuition focus on perceiving patterns and interrelationships. They are:
- Abstract: relying on the figurative, sybolic and intangible
- Imaginative: resourceful and inventive, they seek novelty
- Conceptual: scholarly, idea-oriented and intellectual
- Theoretical: seek patterns, look at the hypothetical and trust theories
- Original: Unconventional, like something different and tend to the new and unusual
S and N need each other
The bottom line is that we need each other. Sensing brings in the accurate, specific data. iNtuitive spots the trends and patterns. Both ways of observing the world and gathering information are valid and useful. A team is at its best when both preferences are used well.
Which one are you?