We’re All Innovators Pt II: Bringing the Vision to Fruition

02 Jul 2018

By Sherrie Haynie, Director of US Professional Services

In my last post we talked about how different types innovate in different ways, and are at their best during different phases (a la Damian Killen in Type and Innovation) of the innovation process. Those preferring NP tend to be better at the “discover” phase, and are great at generating ideas; Those preferring NJ excel in the “decide” phase, and apply their innovative skills to choosing the right direction and developing a strategy for making it happen; people who prefer SP come alive during the “define” phase, where they hone and refine the strategy; and finally, in the “deliver” phase is where those preferring SJ ‘deliver the goods’ so to speak and figure out ways to improve whatever is going on.

Combined, these contributions from different personality types (when played out right) can give us something fantastic.

But, once we dive into the innovation process with other people, the pieces don’t always just fall in place. It’s human nature that we often focus on our contributions, and don’t always recognize the difficulty or value of those who are contributing in other ways.

Understanding of MBTI personality type can help us fully appreciate how each person contributes to the innovation process, and that each part of it is equally critical.

Planning the ultimate summer vacation takes all types

For example, if someone who prefers NP is brainstorming ideas for next summer’s vacation with her SJ preferring husband, she will likely be generating a lot more options and thus come to the conclusion that she is more invested in the idea than he is.

However, in the long run, she may find that he’s every bit as invested in the idea, because when they actually hit the road he’ll be coming up with all kinds of ways that they can make the most out of their trip. Of course on the flip side, once they’re on the road he may be tempted to think that he’s more invested than she is, because at that point he’s applying more of his innovation skills! But if they’re aware of type, they can each take a step back and say “you know, her idea to go to Prague was a stroke of genius,” and “the trip just wouldn’t have been the same if he hadn’t applied his creativity to our itinerary.”

When people butt their innovative heads

Additionally, there’s the possibility of taking personal insult, as the last 3 phases of innovation involve making alterations to contributions made by another. So the NP preferring wife/mom might feel a little put out when her NJ preferring son determines that half of her vacation ideas simply can’t be pulled off.

Likewise, when they finally do decide on a vacation, the NJ preferring son gets miffed when his sister, who prefers SP or his dad, who prefers SJ start slicing and dicing his well-laid vacation plans. But once again, if they’re attuned to how different personality types play into phases of innovation, they’ll recognize that it’s all part of the beauty of the process--each participant is making contributions that may lead to a fantastic vacation.

And without each member’s contribution, the trip just won’t have the magic.

Ultimately, as you become aware of your own preference for innovation and those of the other significant people in your life, you begin to learn to trust each other, and feel more confident that each person is going to contribute when they have the most value to offer. And, as you learn to recognize and express appreciation and enthusiasm for these contributions, everyone will feel more free and inspired, and you’ll see the quality of their innovative contributions rise.

Avoiding the treadmill effect of similar innovation styles

Sometimes the opposite problem can arise. If you have a group of people with the same preferences for N/S or J/P they they might be dynamite in one area, but lacking in another. For example, if two people who prefer NP embark on a  home renovation project, they could fall into the trap of spending an inordinate amount of time generating fantastic ideas which never come to fruition.

Or, two people who prefer SJ might jump right in and get the project done efficiently, only to later ask “why didn’t we consider doing it this other way?” because the didn’t investigate enough possibilities at the start. We call this the treadmill effect because with groups like this, they end up spending a lot of time in one area of the innovation process but not really moving forward through all the phases of innovation effectively.

In either case, understanding of type can help us be aware of phases in the innovation cycle where we perhaps aren’t that strong, and figure out ways to make up for it (perhaps either flexing our type in that area, or bringing in someone whose approach to innovation complements our own).  

Are Star Wars and Led Zeppelin really unoriginal?

Sometimes undue emphasis is placed on one type of innovation. For example, sometimes our society places more weight on phase one--we see it play out in criticisms of some of our most beloved pop culture icons. With the much anticipated Rogue One out in theaters, it’s interesting to note that Star Wars’ creator George Lucas has been repeatedly accused of shoplifting his story line from a 1958 Japanese film titled The Hidden Fortress. Likewise, Led Zeppelin, one of the most popular rock bands in history, has been repeatedly accused of ripping off other folks.

There may be elements of truth to both of these accusations, but if you can find an old blues album that sounds like Led Zeppelin II, or a 50s movie that looks anything like Star Wars, you deserve a big prize.

The point is, while generating totally new ideas certainly is innovative, all innovation doesn’t necessarily involve generating entirely new ideas. And, even the best ideas typically are carried out by more than one person. Lucas’ vision was carried out by editors, special effects teams, location scouts, film crews--remove any one of those pieces, and it might not have had the impact that it did.

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