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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?
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, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016