I have led many Meeting of the Minds Workshops over the last couple of years. Every time I do the “line-up” and “if this room were a brain” exercises, I wonder what it would be like if we had thousands of people in the room. Would we see the perfect thinking and behavioral preferences distribution we expect?

My Conceptual brain easily visualises the “stadium is a brain” exercise, being conducted at the Super Bowl or the Olympics! I had reconciled with myself that such opportunities to create a huge line-up were likely to evade me as a trainer, so I just had to dream of such situations. Or I did … until recently.

My wife and I signed up many months ago for our local Half Marathon (in Cambridge, England). We both have a preference for Conceptual Thinking so we easily visualised many months of training ahead of the event, resulting in us posting a good time.

The reality was, that on the actual morning of the race, with very little training under my belt, I found myself at the front of the start zone with the lead batch of runners who were all like whippets! I had my number, 2457, stapled to my vest (luckily it was not 007!).

When the start gun fired, we set off.

Within a few minutes, it became obvious that I would spend the next two hours with people running past me, who had been much less “conceptually ambitious” about their race time predictions.

Then it occurred to me, that I was in effect being witness to a conveyor belt of humanity, which would carry over 2,000 people past me in the next 2 hours!! My dream was realised… here was a chance to witness the full spectrum of Emergenetics thinking and behavioral preferences … with the added benefit of taking my mind off critical self-talk about my lack of training!

Here is what I observed:

The Social brains were obvious. These were the runners who were raising money for health charities, with photos of recently departed loved ones on their backs saying “for Dad” or “for Fred”. The Social brains who were in the third-third of Expressiveness were usually in pairs or groups having a great chat as they went round. This was a party for them, not a slog of 13 miles.

These runners also said a heartfelt “well done number 2457” as they went past, giving me a motivational fillip – I tried my best to gasp something positive in return….

And next I would sense an Analytical brain approaching. I could hear them from 20 yards behind me, because they had an iPhone strapped to their arm, which was electronically speaking data out loud about their pace in km/min, their last split time, their utilised calories since the last streetlight and various other pieces of information… which in combination made a simple run sound as scientifically challenging as landing a space-probe on a comet.

Next through were the Conceptual minds, admiring (like me) the eight centuries of architecture in the Cambridge Colleges and pondering whether they would still be standing in another 800 years to witness the half-marathon of the year 2815? And if they were, would we still be running past real cars, bicycles and people with iPods …… or would we actually be running in virtual reality that far in the future?

The less disciplined Conceptual brains were by now cursing themselves for thinking that a simple vision of the finish line was going to help them finish the event as we passed mile marker 3, with 10 miles still to go!

I didn’t hear the Structural brains coming because they were pacing themselves exactly as planned, having followed a carefully organised training regime for the last six months. There was no heavy breathing, no need for technology data updates, no requirement to make a fuss ….. they just got on with the job in hand, keeping a quiet eye on their watch as they passed the mile-markers ….. just to check all was going to schedule. As they went past me, their supportive comment was “keep it steady lad, keep to your race plan”.

So …. I had witnessed the full spectrum of thinking preferences on display… this was proving much easier than managing a stadium of people!!

I thus turned my attention to observing behaviour preferences. As I was now at 10 miles, my mind was starting to fuzz and my vision was going, so my observations were even more led by what I was hearing from behind me.

Runners with a third-third Expressive preference spoke to other runners, to the race Marshalls, and to the supporting crowd! If they were approaching from behind in a group it was really obvious as their chatter gradually started to become louder than the cheering of the crowds lining the streets! Once they were within 5 yards, it became impossible not to be absorbed entirely into their conversation, which reached a crescendo as they went past and then faded as they strode ahead.

Even a solitary third-third Expressive was identifiable, as they would be talking to themselves as they approached me from behind! As they got closer, they’d switch to talking to me. Now don’t get me wrong, I can flex to conversation when I need to (as a second-third expressive), but please, not at mile 10, when the proposed conversation was about the wonderful scenery, and was suggesting that “there is no better place we could all be on this wonderful morning”.

I was thinking to myself in response “yes there is! ….. in bed? …. at the finish line? ……. on a comet? ….. any comet!

I truly appreciated the first-third Expressive runners who were over-taking me. They glided past, feeling no compulsion to offer a supportive comment, no journalistic commentary on the scenery, no reminder to me that we are now at mile 10.2. They simply demonstrated the glorious silence of another human being wishing they were somewhere else, but with no desire to tell everyone.

The third-third Assertives were, of course, giving me clear instructions as they went past. It ranged from “Come on man, just put a sprint in for the last mile” to “You are doing really well mate, really well” (even when it was obvious I was not).

The first-third Assertives were more moderate in their approach, with suggestions such as “Keep it nice and steady, you’ll get there” or even “Think how you will feel at the end?

Oops … someone just put a medal around my neck. I just finished!

And I was yet to make my observations about Flexibility, or about bimodal, trimodal and quadrimodal runners!!

But not to worry, I have quickly worked out how to fill this gap in my observations on Emergenetics thinking and behavioral preferences. Next year I’ll do a full marathon… I’m sure it can’t be too hard, I can visualise the glory of the finish line already! Rio here I come!


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