The Yellow Polka Dot Bikini Conundrum

Imagine if you would, just for moment, call to your mind’s eye, a teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini- just like the one in that ol’ song.

I don’t mind who you need to put in the picture to model it. I just want you to really focus on the actual bikini. So have you got the picture in your head..?? Hold it there……So then, what colour are the spots?

(Errrm … huh?) Are the spots yellow ?…or is it the background colour? In your head what does yellow polka dot look like?

I posed this question to a team I did some work with recently. I asked the team to consider the bikini and write down their concept of what it looked like.

Out of 10 people, we came up with 8 variations. Not bad for a group supposedly all on the same page. For the record, this is how the numbers stacked up:

  • 2 firmly believed it would be yellow, with black dots
  • 1 was adamant it should appear as yellow spots on black
  • 2 felt quite certain that it was a white bikini, yellow dots
  • 1 went for yellow background, white dots
  • 1 light blue background, yellow dots,
  • 1 purple background yellow dots
  • 1 yellow background, hot pink dots (Hark ! I hear the 80’s calling! )
  • and 1 red bikini with yellow spots — and the spots were imprinted- appearing more like coins (perhaps it was his finance background)

So who was right? A feisty debate ensued. “Can we Google it!??” they implored. Here’s the thing, we were all correct — each team member was applying their personal bias, drawn from their own experience and preferences. Most importantly, each person was answering the question, to the best of their ability, but with insufficient information.

Which brings me to the pointy end of my story, which is not as much about swimwear and colour as much as it is about communication.

We interpret information and data differently. We come into discussions with our own notions and personal biases. As such, effective communication requires seeking a level of clarification and understanding, and it means being open to a different perspective, hearing another point of view (even if it that person sees a yellow polka dot bikini as red with gold coins … )

Communication ….It’s so very much more than just words.

(first published LinkedIn Feb 2016)