We’re All Innovators...But We Do It According to Type
By Sherrie Haynie, Director of US Professional Services
We’d all like to think of ourselves as ‘innovative’, wouldn’t we? At its core, being innovative involves somehow being able to come up with original ideas and apply them in ways that have some benefit, either for ourselves or for someone else. It’s certainly pertinent to your career and livelihood, but it just as equally at play in all aspects of live, whether it be redesigning your house, managing your money raising your kids, or making a good impression with someone on a first date.
There are opportunities to innovate all around us, and the more innovative we are, the more we’ll uncover opportunities for success and happiness. Yet, many of us do not view ourselves as innovative, and, we certainly don’t always see the innovative potential in the people around us. MBTI personality type can help us tap our potential by helping us see the value in our unique approaches to innovation.
Resisting a limited view of innovation: Hail to the King!
Because innovation is so central to the human experience, it’s too bad that we all too often have a limited view of what it means to be innovative. We often equate it with generating completely new, big ideas. But if you think about it, much of what we think about as innovative doesn’t fit that bill. Facebook wasn’t the first social media platform, the iPhone wasn’t the first interactive cell phone, and Elvis Presley most definitely did not invent Rock and Roll.
In all three of these cases, the innovators at question added their 2 cents (or in some cases 2 dollars) to previously existing forms to create something that, while not wholly new, nevertheless gave the world something that it didn’t have. Elvis may not have invented Rock and Roll, but he sure delivered it like no one had before!
What part of the ‘Innovation Cycle’ gets your gears turning?
Innovation has a lot of moving parts, each of which is crucial to the desired end result of coming up with something cool and new. And if you think about innovation as a cycle or process, different personality types tend to apply their innovative skills at different points in the process. Damian Killen and Gareth Williams nicely summarized this concept in Type and Innovation, which identifies 4 phases of innovation: Discover, Decide, Define and Deliver.
It turns out that personality type has a lot to do with which phase that brings out the best in our innovative capacity. Specifically, this relates to our preference for Sensing/Intuition (S/N), which affects how we take in information, and Judging/Perceiving (J/P), which indicates how we orient ourselves to the external world.
- Discover--generating different ideas. People who prefer NP are more innovative here, and use their curiosity to create new ideas.
- Decide--where we adopt the ideas that we like. People who prefer NJ tend to shine here, and are good at taking stock of these new ideas and creating a strategy that can bring them to fruition.
- Define--where we simplify and refine those ideas. Those who prefer SP types like to come in at this point and refine the strategy, often employing trial and error to hone the process before execution.
- Deliver--where we find ways to efficiently execute ideas. Those who prefer SJ are more innovative in this phase, and look to be more efficient, effective, or identify a way of improving a process.
Why does Columbus get a holiday? Why not ‘Eratosthenes’ day?
In general, there’s a tendency to think of innovation in terms of the first “Discover” phase where the idea is conceived, but this is clearly only one piece of the puzzle. Consequently, a lot of times people view those with N preferences as more innovative, as they’re often the ones with the big ideas and vision.
But, if an idea can’t be successfully implemented, it’s soon forgotten. After all Christopher Columbus wasn’t the first to reject Flat Earth theory, but he’s the one with his own national holiday.
To say that anyone of any personality type can be innovative is selling the concept short. Actually, everyone has to be innovative because the varied and unique skills that each personality type brings to the table are all critical to the process. If all 4 of these approaches aren’t applied, innovation will come to a halt! We’ll discuss this in shortly in Part II....