I am at a conference today where they are talking about innovation and there was a very interesting presentation from General Motors on how to instantiate and grow innovation in large organizations, and it comes down to (surprise) social networks and four types of people. I find this interesting because most personality tests tend to group people into 4 primary buckets. Even the Myers Briggs groups their 16 types into 4 primary types.
I found it somewhat amusing because it seems self-evident, but is always heralded as unique and new thought. The fact is, to be successful as a group, everyone has a role to play and those roles are equally important. From the brokers who connect groups, to the connectors who foster and connect each subgroup, to the energizer who drive the excitement to the challengers who create healthy opposition, each role is crucial to the overall success and growth of the organization. Again, this is not new thinking, just concepts rediscovered and retaliated by official-looking research by a group of PhDs.
My personal take on this is that it reinforces a thought I have been teasing out for awhile. First, I think the reason we have increased focus on personality types and descriptions is that we are all looking for a group that defines us as normal. We desire our individuality but we still have a need to understand that there is a place for us in the herd. Second, I think we tend to undervalue the other groups and their contributions because we see them through a lens that does not value the same actions. For example, we may not value the role of the challenger because they play a devil’s advocate role and push back on us if we are a connector looking to unify the team.
The truth is if we embrace and celebrate the roles we each play, we will succeed, if not we will fail. Maybe that isn’t an innovative thought, but it is worth remembering.