‘Chunking up’ refers to moving from specific, or small scale ideas or pieces of information to more general, larger ones. ‘Chunking down’ (obviously) means going the other way.
To chunk up from something, ask one or more of the following questions:
To illustrate the concept, consider a supermarket. Examples of chunking up from supermarket are:
If we move from supermarket to district, we could continue upwards to city, county, country… If we move from supermarket to supermarket chain, we could continue to retail sector, trade, economy…
To chunk down, use one or more of the following questions:
Examples of chunking down from supermarket are:
If we move form supermarket to department, we could continue product range, product, size of product and so on.
Whether we think in big chunks or little chunks is, like everything else, a matter of nature and nurture. People who see ‘the big picture’ may often be regarded as superior, but this is a cultural judgment, not a psychological one. Clearly people who can see the detail are essential in many areas of work.
There is no fundamental difference between people who tend to think in big chunks and people who tend to chunk down. It’s just a preference. But our preference determines whether we automatically chunk up or chunk down, as is revealed in the questions we ask:
“How does this fit into the plan we’ve been following?” is a chunking up question.
“How does this affect the way I report my work?” takes you down to a particular detail.
You can also chunk sideways, eg, “What is similar to this?”
It’s very useful to develop an awareness of your and others’ preferences and to practise up, down and sideways chunking. If someone’s preference is different from yours, then matching theirs for a while is one strategy for building rapport with them.
In negotiation, when conflicts arise, an essential technique is to deliberately chunk up in order to find common ground. So, for example, you might think we should buy cheaper paper and I might think that would give our clients a poor impression of us. A mediator would ask you, “What would cheaper paper give us?” and then ask me, “What would a good customer impression give us?” The answers might be “reduced costs” and “more sales”, respectively. This is chunking up. Chunking up another step makes us both answer “more profit”. We now have a common objective and we can both address it (“what ways that we agree on will deliver more profit?”), moving away from our area of conflict.
This sequence is also a key part of several techniques for resolving personal internal conflict; that is, when an individual wants two things that seem to be mutually exclusive. A common example of these conflicting wants is the pair career and family. You want to progress at work but you also want to spend more time with the family. Chunking up might go: career gets me money, which gets me freedom, which gets me fulfilment. Family time gets me sense of belonging, which gets me comfort, which gets me fulfilment.
Recognising that both of the conflicting parts ultimately want the same thing opens the door to co-existence, because whichever of the two you’re pursuing at any moment, you’re always moving towards the common goal. You still have to accommodate both in your life but it doesn’t feel like a conflict any longer.
© 2011 Jeremy Marchant Limited . by Jeremy Marchant . uploaded 20 may 2015 . images: Free images