Five Innovation Personalities - Which one are you?

I’ve never really thought of myself as being an innovator. I do know that I work hard and am quite stubborn. Okay, so make that very stubborn. I’m also self-motivated and like to share what I’ve learned so others don’t repeat my mistakes. Yet, according to a recent study by Forbes Insights entitled Nurturing Europe’s Spirit of Enterprise: How Entrepreneurial Executives Mobilize Organizations to Innovate, those characteristics also help classify me as one of five major personalities crucial to fostering a healthy atmosphere of innovation within an organization. The five personalities were determined as a result of clustering the executives responding to the Forbes survey based on different personalities, motivations, and behaviours.

Of the five personalities, some are more entrepreneurial, whereas others are more process-oriented. However, all play a critical role in innovation. Successful organizations will be those that recognize and support the mix needed for innovation and risk taking. Failure to do so results in enterprising staff and volunteers walking away in frustration - bogged down by red tape, lack of resources, or simply an organization’s reluctance to tackle new projects and challenges, especially those that are more daring.

While the five personality types exist within every organization, no one type is necessarily better than the others as all bring different kinds of value. However, among companies determined to be more innovative and entrepreneurial, certain types are more prominent. 

The five clusters extracted from the self-descriptive statements include (1) Movers and Shakers, (2) Controllers, (3) Star Pupils, (4) Experimenters, and (5) Hangers-on.

Practitioners who are Movers and Shakers have a bias for action, strong leadership skills, and a great amount of personal drive. They are heavily motivated by goals and rewards, seek influence over others, and aspire to greatness and the creation of a legacy. Unfortunately, they sometimes have a tendency toward arrogance and little patience for teamwork.

Controllers thrive on structure, are careful to talk the talk, and generally shy away from risk and nebulous tasks because of their need for order and control. They like taking credit and may try to manipulate others’ views in order to present themselves in a favourable light. Although they try to be seen as team players, they are often insular. They don’t make the most of existing professional relationships, or typically seek out new ones. They work best when direction and expectations are clear as they can tap their strengths for organizing and mobilizing staff and resources.

Although I was never one, Star Pupils are like the kids from school who always had their hands up first when the teacher asked a question. They grew up to be good at a lot of things as the result of investing heavily in their own personal development, acquiring mentors, and making the most of other people’s expertise. In the study they were the ones most likely to rise through the hierarchies of organizations, even when the dominant business culture was stacked against them.

Like me, Experimenters are fascinated by the possibilities the world has to offer, and are notable for their persistence. After all, where there is a will, there is a way. This belief that all things are possible often leads to risk taking and labels as perfectionists and workaholics. They take intense pride in their achievements, enjoy having the status of an expert, and are keen to pass on their expertise.

Hangers-on are those who believe in process, are known for providing reality checks, and have strong views about how things ought to be run. Like Controllers, they understand the need to take risks, but are rooted in habit and intellectual inflexibility and are therefore uncomfortable in unstructured environments. They may lack motivation and, when asked how much they agreed or disagreed with any given statement, were the most likely to stick to the middle of the range. Some may be unaware of how they come across to others, but typically they are not eager to please and are unconcerned about others’ views. They are more apt to apply conventional wisdom and tried-and-true processes over anything new and untested, and will be the ones to remind everyone of budget and resource constraints.

Not one of the five categories corresponds perfectly to the profile of the successful entrepreneur, although the study suggest Movers and Shakers and Experimenters come close as they have the strongest tendency to be internally driven and able to channel the most in others by providing direction.

Younger, more innovative businesses and organizations generally need Movers and Shakers at the top, channeling the energy of Experimenters into a vision that can be implemented. As organizations grow larger and more established, however, they need Star Pupils who can translate that vision into a strategy and lead it forward, Controllers who can marshal the troops to execute it, and Hangers-On who can rein it in. An organization reaching maturity has greater need for strong processes, as well as those who value control.

While unrestrained innovation can be a wonderful thing, it’s not enough as the next steps are just as important. Ultimately, innovation within organizations requires a mix of innovative personalities who can ensure the delicate dance between risk-taking and stability.

Posted on 04-08-12

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