There Are 4 Innovation Personalities. Which One Are You?

November 9, 2018 12:00 pm

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Here is a personality test for leaders: those who create products, services, and businesses, those who manage teams big and small, and those who have to be agile thinkers to face complex challenges. Read through the four groups below–Revolutionary, Evolutionary, Traditional, and Reactionary–and see where you fit in as a leader. Then think about your team. And then your organization. Where do they fit in too? And how can you collectively achieve the change and innovation needed? 

I have personally a soft spot for Revolutionaries, because dedication to innovation is thrilling, makes you feel like you’re living at the cutting edge and serving a bigger purpose. I have also learned how quickly scales can change and top organizations and their leaders can get burnt out and retreat to the safety of incremental change. Inversely, Evolutionaries can become Revolutionaries; and Naysayers can become the best advocates for disruption once they see the value of being a Revolutionary. 

Being at the service of people, solving problems for others, making someone’s life better, more joyful or easier–which is what innovation is about–is not a talent that only a few can attain. Neither is it a static skill that, once acquired, stays with you. It is an organic set of skills, tools, and processes you decide to have, practice and keep. In other words, it is inclusive and accessible if you know where you are now and where you want to be in the future, which is where this quiz comes in handy. 

What is your current innovation personality? What personality do you aspire to be?

Revolutionary

Different sources call you different things–A Reinventor, Disruptor, Provocateur, Innovator. You revolutionize the way something is done. You are a design thinker. In other words, you think like a designer. Positive, open-minded and curious, you are energized by new ideas. You see change as an opportunity, not as a challenge. You use design tools and an iterative process to solve problems. Getting close to your customer is fundamental to your thinking. Only then can you make sure you ask the right questions. To that end, you use co-design with customers.   Journey mapping helps you to uncover your hidden customer needs, and fast prototyping allows you to experiment with solutions. You are not afraid of constraints and know how to use them to your advantage.

“The Reinventors, making up 27 percent of the total, are the standouts. They report that they outperformed their peers in both revenue growth and profitability over the past three years, and led as well in innovation.” IBM Global CEO study on Digital Reinvention

Synonyms: Reinventor, Disruptor, Provocateur, Innovator.

Evolutionary

You are a change agent of the cautious kind. You are comfortable with incremental change. You might be a recovering Revolutionary who got hit by market forces and lost some of your courage and daring to be the first. Or you have the ambition to become a Revolutionary and are gathering experience. As David Peterson, Director of Leadership Development & Executive Coaching at Google would say, you need to sub-optimize and be less perfect to experiment more and adapt to constant change with more agility. You want to think like a designer, but you may not have the right tools and process. You need to get out of your comfort zone and get up close and intimate with your customers. Experimenting more, and more quickly, breaking internal silos to create cross-functional teams and co-designing with your customers to include them in ideation will push you to the Revolutionary group.

According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a healthy dose of prudence is not bad for innovation. “Contrary to what many people think, successful innovators are more organized, cautious, and risk-averse than the general population.”

Synonyms: Practitioner (coined by IBM). Pragmatic.

Traditionalists

Your one dominant characteristic is that you feel like your solution is fine just the way it is. When asked if your users are happy, you will say “yes” but deep down you know you’ve grown farther and farther away from your customer. The good news is there are many ways to build empathy and get closer to them. Once you move away from a product-centric mindset to an experience-centered one, improving people’s lives will give you the courage to develop your own unique vision. Your previous successes may hold you back, but what got you here is not helping you get there (if you haven’t, read Marshall Goldsmith’s best-selling book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There). Having the vision, strategy and tools to recognize and capture the right opportunities will move you to the Evolutionary group. 

Synonyms: Conventional. Aspirational (coined by IBM).

Reactionary

You resist change and have a strong tendency to block new ideas. It is the fear of unknown which makes it easier for you to come up with why something will not work. You are the skeptic. Yet you know that agility and experimentation are key to how organizations are evolving. You will become a great convert to thinking like a designer if you can see its value–making you more agile, customer-centered and comfortable with experimenting. 

“Saboteurs. The people and groups who can obstruct or derail the process of searching, evaluating, and purchasing a product or a service.” Alex Osterwalder, Value Proposition Design

Synonyms: Blockers, Resistants, Naysayers, Saboteurs (coined by Alex Osterwalder). 

How did you do? Remember knowing who you are and who you aspire to be on the innovation scale is half the battle. The other half is actually practicing it on a daily basis. 

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