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Concrete - Abstract - Sequential - Random
Applying the Gregorc 4-Quadrant Model to Teamwork
Ron and Sam work together on the same team. Ron is the experimenter
in the group and often comes up with new ideas that are practical and easy to
implement. Sam is a great planner and organizer. His favorite slogan
is, "Plan your work and work your plan." Most of the time they work well
together, but every once in a while they get irritated with each other.
Sam sees Ron as too random because he jumps from one thing to another without
regard for following company processes. Ron sees Sam as too sequential.
If things are not done in the right sequence, Sam won't trust the results.
When Ron is successful doing things his way, Sam says, "He got lucky this time.
If Ron would do things the right way, we would all be better off in the
long run." Because Ron and Sam have a good working relationship they get
past their conflict.
author of An Adult's Guide To Style, gives us a theoretical model that is
useful for understanding a difference between Ron and Sam. Some
people like to follow a sequential process.
They start at the beginning and end at the end. Others tend to be more
random, taking short cuts, skipping steps along the way. They often like
to start with the end in mind and work backwards. If Sam were to write a
paper, he would gather all the relevant information,
develop an outline, and then write. When Ron
writes, he just starts writing and when he needs more information he gets it.
When he is done, he builds an outline and then goes back to make sure everything
within the paper is consistent with the facts. Both
approaches get the work done and both approaches can work well.
Ron - Random
Sam - Sequential
Like clockwork, a process followed step by step, over a
period of time
Like a stop watch, starting and stopping at will, subject to what
is important at the moment.
Gregorc adds another dimension to his theory by focusing on
how we like to learn. Some of us depend primarily on our physical
senses, what we can touch, see, feel, smell, and hear. Others prefer
to work with ideas to get a better understanding of the world. He
calls the first group concrete learners and the second group abstract
learners. Sam and Ron are both concrete learners. Sam's goal is
to get things done in a predictable way and he depends on improving the
process to do it. Ron likes to experiment with things, trying to
figure out how they work. Both of them like concrete examples when people
are presenting new ideas.
Learners: Like to learn through their physical senses, what they
can touch, see, hear, taste and smell. They like to deal with
things that exist in the physical world.
Learners: Prefer the world of ideas and feelings. They
use reason and intuition to deal with ideas, concepts, and feelings.
|When Amanda finds a topic that interests her, she likes
to dig deeper and learn more about it. She pulls in all the
information she can find to see if she can make it fit together in a
cohesive way, thereby developing an abstract, theoretical understanding
of the topic.
Ann cares a great deal about how people feel and she is happy when everyone is working together.
When there is conflict within the team, Ann is the first to tell a joke
and lighten it up. Ann reminds the team that perception is
Amanda and Ann usually work well with everyone on the team, but there
are times they simply don't make sense to each other. Ann has a
hard time with Amanda's habit of working alone and not including the
team. She is especially bothered when Amanda takes a position that
is contrary to what others on the team feel. It seems that Amanda has a one track
mind and Ann can never get her off that track. Both Ann and Amanda
live in the abstract world of thoughts, ideas, and feelings but Ann says
she that she works from the heart while Amanda works from the head.
agrees that she works from the head, not the heart because how she feels about
something does not change it. She once told Ann, "I care about
your opinion and if you give me the data I will tell you if you are
|Together, the four of them make a fantastic team because Ron is often
experimenting and developing innovative products that are practical. Sam applies his creativity to improving the process so
that over time quality improves and cost goes down. Amanda does
the necessary research so their products have a strong theoretical
foundation. Ann, of course, keeps the team working together and
she networks effectively with people outside the team to grease the way
for dealing with other departments in the organization.
By combining the two ides, Gregorc builds the following
Concrete-Sequential: Practical and well organized. They like to plan
their work and work their plan.
are logical, instinctive and deliberate.
perfection and have an eye for detail.
Focus on material
reality and physical objects.
not with originality but with making it more effective than the original.
environment that is ordered, practical, quiet, and stable.
Practical and live in the physical world, but they like to learn by trial and
error. Rather than a plan, they want options.
are instinctive, intuitive, and impulsive.
Events affected by
Focus on practical
applications, methods, and processes.
original, inventive, and unique.
environment that is stimulus rich and competitive.
Abstract-Sequential: Like to develop ideas in a logical way. How
someone feels about something does not change reality.
are intellectual, analytical, correlative, fluid, and quick.
Focus attention on
knowledge, concepts, and ideas.
within models, theories, and synthesizing.
environment that is ordered, quiet, independent, and mentally stimulating.
Work from the heart, not the head. How someone feels about it makes a
great deal of difference.
are based in feelings, which makes this type of person good at establishing
a rapport with people.
Make sense of the
world using feelings and emotions.
Focus on emotional
attachments, relationships, and memories.
imaginative and often expressed through music and art.
environment of emotional experiences, active and colorful, and physical
Common sense tells us that an ideal team would have all
four behaviors and it is unlikely that one person can do all four behaviors
well. That is why organizations form. On the positive side, we each
bring something different to the table. On the negative side some of
things one person likes another dislikes. Something that makes sense to
one person makes no sense to another person. Compounding this, we all work
in all four quadrants over the course of a typical day, even though we may find
our selves most comfortable in one or two quadrants and somewhat uncomfortable
in other quadrants. In other words we have internal and external
discomfort. No wonder teams sometimes become dysfunctional. Take a
close look at the likes and dislikes with each of the quadrants and predict
areas of conflict.
- Order, predictability
- Logical sequence
- Following directions
Learns best with:
- Structured environment
- Incomplete or unorganized
- Questions without right/wrong
- A schedule to follow
- Take risks
- Independent problem solving
Learns best with:
- Trial-and-error approaches
- Restrictions and limitations
- No options
- Try it
- Concrete examples
- Their points to be heard
- Analyzing before deciding
- Applying logic
Learns best with:
- Able to work alone
- Expressing their emotions
- Too little time to be thorough
- Well researched information
- Work through ideas thoroughly
- Listen to others
- Group harmony
- Healthy relationships with others
Learns best with:
- Group activities
- Focusing on one thing at a time
- From the heart not the head
- Personal examples
To get a better understanding of this work group, let's go
back in time to their school and talk to their 4th grade teacher:
AR: Ann loved recess. Her teachers would always
that she was the friendliest girl in the room and if she would just stop
talking, she would accomplish wonderful things. Her teacher noticed that
with group projects she got the group to work well together and make it fun.
CR: Some considered Sam to be unorganized, but that was
because he had his own way of doing things. Her really came to life
when he had the freedom to complete a project his way rather than having to
use the standard method that the teacher expected him to follow. He
enjoyed doing hands-on science projects and he especially enjoyed doing
things that others said would be impossible to do.
CS: Sam was considered a model student. His desk was
organized. He had the nicest handwriting and the holes were never torn out
of his paper. He liked it when the teacher told him what he needed to
do and then gave him time to work on it. He consistently followed the
proper procedure and was not afraid to ask questions to find out how to do
AS: Amanda barely made it through 4th grade even
though she was really smart. She just could not understand why she had to
do the homework. However, when her teacher let her write a report about the
book she had just read about horses, she easily wrote over 10 pages of
information and did an outstanding job.
Gregorc warns that we should not administer his profile to
children because of the danger of putting children in boxes. Their personalities
are not fully developed and they need to develop skills in each of these
A teacher will not be effective with all students if he or
she works from just one quadrant such concrete/sequential, wanting all the
children to do everything the right way, and invalidating those who deviate.
Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors of all times did poorly in school
and fortunately for him and the rest of the world, his mother gave him learning
opportunities at home using methods that worked for him. He was ill-suited to
rote learning; he could reach understanding only by doing and making. At age
nine, she gave him a book that illustrated home experiments in chemistry and
electricity, and he attempted everyone of them.1 The best teaching
strategy is to teach in all four quadrants. Not only does this help the children
who think differently from the teacher, it also develops all four styles within
- Not conventionally
- People too emotional
- People too academic
- Fuzzy headed thinking
- Being told to seek hard data
- People unwilling to consider options
- Anything that fails a logic test
- Hazy or sentimental thinking
- Excessive rules, regulations
- Being told to be
- Restrictive environments
- Non-caring unemotional people
Another use of this model is anticipate each quadrant's
major intolerance. If you want to press their hot buttons
and get them to stop listening to you, phrase your comments and suggestions in
terms of what annoys them. Take special note that each of these
intolerances fit within another quadrant's comfort zone, meaning it will be
natural and easy to irritate other people depending on our respective comfort zones.
In a work team we need to
validate all four styles, too. It is not
enough to have a great process if you don't feed the
organization new, random ideas. It is not
enough to be right, perception is important, too.
A great team has diversity of style and supports
each person on the team.
For information on other
4-quandrant models, click here
Tough Teams is a training company that focuses on project
teams, particularly in technical fields such as information technology.
After many years working in many corporations, Tough Teams facilitators still
report that the 4-quadrant models add a fresh new perspective to teamwork.
Even though it is common sense that a team needs diversity, common practice is
to emphasize conformity. After teams participates in a workshop, we
frequently see diversity of work style affirmed and valued.
US News & World Report October 11, 2004, The
Spark of Genius
An Adult's Guide to Style, Anthony Gregorc Ph.D.
Way They Learn, Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
2004 Steven Wille.