Dr. Keith Sprunger of Bethel College opened his History of Civilization course by saying that historians are either parachutists or truffle hunters.  Parachutists like the birds-eye view of the world and truffle hunters are down in the dirt digging for gold.  One is not better than the other; just different.

Historians are not the only ones that can be broadly categorized as parachutist or truffle hunters; I think it’s a good way to understand almost any interaction in a group of people at work, on a volunteer committee, or even at play.

How you know you’re a parachutist:

  • You enjoy studying theories of leadership, human behavior, and organizational dynamics
  • You’re more interested in why people do things than how people do things
  • You invest your energy in understanding the connectedness of various parts
  • You can see how to leverage one part to help another part work better
  • You can easily spot breakdowns in systems because you understand how the whole machine works
  • You can analyze entire systems
  • You enjoy strategic planning
  • You understand and need truffle hunters to function at optimal performance so the whole system functions at maximum capacity


How you know you’re a truffle hunter:

  • You love processes
  • You enjoy being isolated on one particular assignment
  • You continually modify and tweak one area or one part until you reach a state of perfection
  • Metrics and evaluations are more important to you than theories and concepts
  • You create new tools and skills in the pursuit of doing the task with greater excellence and efficiency
  • You understand the devil is in the details
  • You want the strategic planning to be done so you can get back to work
  • You understand and need parachutist to function at optimal performance so the whole system functions at maximum capacity

Sometimes parachutists hunt truffles to help them appreciate detail; sometime truffle hunters jump from the plane to understand the lay of the land.  Highly functioning organizations have both.

Parachutists can spot prime truffle hunting ground that’s out of view of the truffle hunters; truffle hunters can provide parachutists with rich, tasty morsels of pure delight.

Which one are you?