Are you creative in the Grouper or Stringer mold?

by IdeaTransfer on May 22, 2011

There are a lot of ways to divide people into different categories.  Here is one we introduced to our clients—Groupers and Stringers.  It resonates well for strategic planning and problem-solving sessions.

There are two basic thinking styles.   Because they can both attract and repel, you have to understand them so you can respect the differences.  Only if we respect each other will relationships work.


Groupers are divergent thinkers.  They think horizontally and synchronously, scanning the horizon for the widest possible area to perform mental work.

They can fill that mental space with every option that occurs to them.  Ideas are like popcorn in hot oil—without a lid—so thesis and antithesis compete with each other very comfortably in the Grouper’s mind.  And because they seldom edit, their thoughts and emotions come out live.  But they don’t mind having their ideas challenged because another idea is just moments away.

In problem-solving they can be fun to watch because you get multiple solutions, and the creative process moves along so quickly.  Groupers are never stuck in a problem-solving environment.

The downside is no one knows which option to pick—including the Grouper.

Even when one direction seems to be the best, Groupers may not be able to stop generating alternatives.  For Stringers this can be painful and frustrating, as you will see in a moment, and at that point well-meaning Grouper energy can become very hard to take.  That’s why respect for the differences is so important.


Stringers are convergent thinkers.  The think vertically and sequentially.  They tunnel deep into the structure of an idea to test its validity, so they are comfortable performing work in tight mental spaces.

Stringers can find all the advantages and flaws they look for.  Ideas are like threads on a loom that need synthesis for the pattern to reveal itself.  They are patient and they consistently edit, so their thoughts come out after careful consideration and they expect others will not challenge them.

The downside is that Stringers often kill ideas too early—leaving no solution open.

Stringers cause pain to Groupers because they work quietly and internally, while Groupers thrive in communal play.  And if they deliver a well-meaning critical evaluation without warning or emotion, they can appear to be callous.  And that’s why respect for differences is once again so important.

Respect can be a simple matter of accepting and acknowledging the positive contribution each type of thinking brings to the table.  Drop the bias that Groupers are time-wasters or Stringers are idea-killers.  Strategic planning and problem solving will be second-rate with only one of the two skills.

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