Meta programs

Global Specific or Chunk Size Meta Program

Do you prefer to get the big picture or the details? The global specific Meta program relates to the size of the information chunks or pieces we are comfortable dealing with. People who are sorting globally get bored with details whereas a specific person gets frustrated with overviews and summaries.

It is not a “one or the other” situation, but where you sit on the scale in any particular context. Then, in order to process the information, you may chunk up from the details to a bigger picture (inductive) or down from a global perspective to get more detail (deductive). And of course what it detailed to one person may be another’s big picture.

global specific scale

Specific Meta Program

The specific end of the global specific meta-program deals with small pieces of information and details, often sequentially. A proper definition is “can you relate this to tangible experience?” A specific dog rather than a category of dogs.

Summaries can be frustrating to someone sorting specifically. The other day I was doing my taxes, and the summaries my accounting software were giving me, didn’t make sense. I needed to know the detail underneath.

This Meta program is useful when implementing plans that require paying attention to the details. For instance when organizing an event or paperwork.

Another important time to be specific is when giving or receiving street directions. Have you ever been lost, and someone tells you something like “keep going for a couple miles, and if you get to the old barn you know you’ve gone too far” – you need some sequential detail.


It can be motivating to be able to see all the pieces and steps of a goal – exactly what you need to do to make something happen. It can make achieving it very concrete and doable.

With an unpleasant or large task, seeing every little piece and step that needs to be done can be overwhelming and de-motivating. In this case it is better to focus on the satisfaction of having the task completed (a global perspective).


Professions where the ability to deal with details is necessary include bookkeeping, quality control, airplane maintenance, proof reading, assembly line work and many types of clerical and administrative positions.

Inductive thinking – moving from specific to global

The detail can then build up to a bigger picture, or pattern. Grouping and summarizing details, makes them more abstract. The Milton Model does this. It starts with a specific experience – “my dog licked me” and abstracts into “there is love all around you”.

Inductive thinking is the basis of scientific discovery and the technical perspective. We collect data and then examine, analyze, and organize until we make a conclusion. For example, I may have 100 different results from a survey. I would want to know what the answers have in common, what they mean.

Building a house inductively

First, you’d buy lots of building material. “I can afford 20 pallets of bricks, 10 light fittings, 15 windows of various sizes, 20 liters of paint, 10 pallets of tiles and 10 yards of carpet. I want 3 sinks, a shower recess, 100 pieces of particleboard, 10 pallets of roof tiles, truckload of timber, two toilets etc.”

Then you would group them or organize them into rooms and functions. You would probably end up with a very strange house and many materials gaps. This is how kids are educated. Lots of detail and disconnected pieces of information with no overall plan of how to use the bits to get what they want.

Global Meta Program

The global side of the global specific sort is the visionary end of the scale. The ability to drill down is necessary to analyze any situation or problem. You examine overall components and relationships, before diagnosing individual parts. Global sorts prefer to start with an overview and may present things quite randomly. They often find details overwhelming or boring.

They like to plan using concepts and abstractions (or some kind of functionality). They talk in very vague terms, which can cause misunderstanding when communicating with others. They can also over generalize and jump to conclusions before working out the practicalities.

One of the most important leadership skills is the ability to see how people and resources fit in to the larger scheme and company objectives. A good technician is often very good at detail. Technicians promoted to management, can find it difficult to let go of the details by delegating them.


Grand designs and seeing all the pieces in place can be motivating to start with. Actually doing the hard work and implementing these ideas can be overwhelming and frustrating. This is why visionaries need lots of supporters and people to execute their plans. They often start lots of things, big exciting schemes, and then go on to something else.


Leadership positions requiring strategic thinking need to be at this end of the scale.

Deductive Thinking – moving from Global to Specific

Deductive thinking starts with overall understanding (Global) and then moves to specific details to work out how to apply that understanding. The Meta Model takes an abstract communication and then uncovers the underlying experience. For example, “the dog hurt me”… “How specifically were you hurt?”…”He ignored me when I came home yesterday”

Building a house deductively

You would start with an overall plan or criteria. I want two bathrooms, three bedrooms, a big kitchen, study, combined lounge and dining room with a separate laundry. Then you would organize the modules into an overall plan, before considering the details such as material required. Of course, you may start at an even bigger picture – I want a huge house on a hill.

Eliciting the Global Specific Meta program

When asked something like “tell me about the ocean”

Global might answer

The oceans on the planet are like its circulation. They are one big moving flow of energy that keeps the planet alive. They warm and cool the landmasses.

Specific might answer

My favorite beach is main beach. It’s difficult to park during the tourist season. It has a life-saving tower, showers, toilets, a restaurant, and a bar. It suffered badly from erosion on November 22nd 2007, leaving a sand cliff 7 feet high, 16 feet from the main life-saving entrance.

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