A few days ago Whitney Hess, a good friend of mine, tweeted:
“I firmly believe that anyone who talks about having “work/life balance” has no life and doesn’t love their work”
This was followed by a short twitter conversation (a twersation?) between several people about kids, family and compartmentalization. The fact of the matter is, of course, that people think differently – it’s actually wired into their brains.
Now before I go any further, a warning: I’m going to talk about men’s brains and women’s brains. There are going to be generalizations, but I do not believe (contrary to the title of this post) that all men or all women think alike. I think it more likely that there are patterns of thinking that anyone can exhibit, it may just be more likely that women will tend toward one pattern more often and men to another.
In this video Mark Gungor speaks (humorously) about men’s brains being full of little boxes, with one topic in each box and the boxes never touching. Women’s brains, he continues, are more like balls of wire, with every thing connected to every other thing and emotion running along the wires. This is why, he contends, men can only do one thing at a time and why women can multi-task and remember everything. (The video is well worth watching for the laugh!)
It turns out that there may even be scientific evidence (this is now my own conjecture) to support this:
“The connections between the two sides of women’s brains enable them, on average, to be better at expressing emotions and remembering details of emotional events and communicating them. They use language to talk about feelings and develop consensus more efficiently than men do. Men’s brains, more specifically organized and with fewer connections, enable men, on average, to focus more intensely and not be as distracted by superfluous information.”
Suppose that a “Wire Thinker” (man or woman!) was shopping for a car. As they’re looking at cars and specifications, might they be (subconsciously) influenced by the context of their family, their job, pleasant memories of cars in the past, just about anything in fact?
Contrast this with a “Box Thinker” (man or woman!). They would be in their “car box”, which is not connected to their “family box”, or “good times box”. Might they be more focused on the task at hand? At looking at specifications and features? Less emotionally connected?
So men and women aside – perhaps there are “Box Thinkers” and “Wire Thinkers” (or times when a person thinks box-like and wire-like), and perhaps this accounts for some people’s inclination to separate or conflate their home and work lives – neither of which is right or wrong of course.
If there is any truth in this, the question becomes – how can we design experiences that resonate with both types of thinking?