Simanaitis Says

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BEING RETIRED and all, I’m not much into organizational research. Nor have I usually found attraction to the Harvard School of Business. Its graduates always seemed to be cutting quarter-inches off magazine tops to improve the look of their bottom lines. However, I must admit I found interesting thoughts in “What Kind of Thinker Are You?,” by Mark Bonchek and Elisa Steele, in the Harvard Business Review, November 23, 2015.


The authors consider individual workers in team structures of organizations. Relevant are team members’ personalities, skills and productive roles. Bonchek and Steele note that ordinarily these roles are characterized by what people do. However, they propose it’s also beneficial to consider how people think.

People, they propose, align themselves along two spectra, one of orientation, the other of focus. Orientation is characterized by thinking in macro or micro scale. Do you thrive on identifying the big picture or are you more productive working out details?

Focus has to do with individual personality: Are you a people person? Or is your productivity highest when working alone on an idea? Do you think about planning? Or execution?


Image from Boncheck and Steele, HBR.ORG.

Boncheck and Steele summarize these in a matrix describing eight different personality types. Each one is beneficial to an organization. However, it’s interesting what happens when there’s an overweighting of one or another thinking style within a single team.

A team with nothing but Experts generates lots of ideas, but only rarely are these ideas compatible with each other. It makes for a great start-up that, alas, rarely succeeds as a business.

Explorers are most productive when there are also Experts working out the necessary details. Energizers need a workforce to motivate.

Coaches cultivate people and potential, useful provided there are other team members ready to profit from this wisdom. Otherwise, it’s a fun place to work, but not for long because not much gets done.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed being part of teams that were balanced—and occasionally imbalanced—with these characteristics. What’s more, I don’t believe I’ve always occupied a unique place in the matrix. In some situations, I’ve been the Expert; in others, the Planner; not often the Connector or Coach. How about you? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2016

One comment on “ON THINKING

  1. J Perry Arnott
    January 5, 2016

    I suppose it says something about what kind of employee I was pre-retirement, and about what kind of team member, when I say that there has never been a more persistent sham than these Meyers-Briggs imitators. It seems there’s hundreds of them and they’re easy to spot – each one of them has some cutsie-poo name for each of the imposed boxes into which they push the faceless employees.

    Bah. Successful operations (business, government, institutions of all sorts) work best when a mix of people come together with some sort of shared purpose. The mix is mandatory, the purpose is almost always essential. To insist that the mixed people occupy certain imposed sub-divisions only adds complication and friction.

    However, these schemes do offer deliverance to people whose positions depend on getting something published during this academic year.

    Over the top, perhaps. But, speaking as an introvert, I’ve been harassed by these sorts of things too many times in large companies.

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This entry was posted on January 2, 2016 by in Sci-Tech and tagged .
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