Of course they can, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the creative project. But I think there are profound differences between executing a creative idea for oneself, as a typical artist would do, and doing so for an organization.
Certain words just do not naturally go with “organizations”: “sensible,” “creative,” “playful,” “awesome…,” etc. As I mentioned in the last post, organizations, by definition, are about orderly matters, with routines, procedures, or control attached to status. But most organizations still need occasional creative and innovative breakthroughs to grow. And a step-change breakthrough starts with a creative or innovative idea. But accomplishing implementation requires very different kinds of skills than the skills needed for generating creative ideas. A research study suggested a pathway (mentioned in the previous post): Idea-bearers need both motivation and networking skills to push through successful implementation of a creative idea.
Networking for a purpose needs intentional focus on the quality and the content of the network. I propose using the “Team Dimensions Profile” framework to examine the network composition. (I am providing one link here, but please Google the term for more elaborate reviews.) All diagrams below are taken from the “research report,” provided by Center for Internal Change, whose web link I provide above. The pictures are fairly self-explanatory.
Whenever I use a framework that puts people in categories, I get a bit nervous. Categories are helpful in giving us anchors and information, but they can too easily be used to box people into overly-narrow portrayals, it being our human nature to latch onto labels that are tangible, convenient, or seemingly sensible, such as “introvert” and “extrovert,” or “executor” and “creator.” Yet categories are handy for analytical purposes. So, for now, I will suspend my disquiet in order to make some points.
The four categories addressed in Team Dimensions, Creator, Advancer, Refiner, and Executor, are not mutually exclusive; I suspect all of us occupy at least two roles simultaneously, if not more. However, most of us are naturally inclined to assume one role over the others. Equally interesting is the comparison – and the inevitable discrepancy – between how we see ourselves and how others see us.
When working in a team, we should be allowed to tap into our best skill set, rather than employing our weak points. Common sense? But look around in your organization and see how seldom we achieve such fidelity. Without intending to offend anyone, let me frame it in this way: Why would we expect a dog to catch a mouse and a cat to meow an alarm at an intruder into the house? Yes, odd things happen once in a long while, but I am talking about general probability. Similarly, for example, why would we task an introverted “creator-refiner” to carry out “advancer-executor” work needing an extrovert’s networking capability?
I do not want to discourage people from learning and acquiring skills outside of their natural talents; however, that should take place when we are at leisure. Most people face deadlines and pressures at work, and often in such environment, we work best when we are allowed to “swim with the current,” instead of against it. The same point said differently: Anyone can create and anyone can execute, but it’s a “creator” who will create even when s/he is working 60-hour weeks with no apparent bandwidth to accomplish anything extra, and it’s an “executor” who will multitask project execution while exercising over the lunch break.
Another example: I have an artist friend who is extraordinary in creating, with words and with fabrics. She is also a natural social scientist, methodical and organized in her own environment. Recently, she was invited to join other artists for an intriguing educational program with local schools. The program’s goal is to provide alternative and creative learning methods. In this venue, not only did she have to collaborate with others, she also had to deal with aspects of administrative functions of large organizations. It frustrated her no end! It is reasonable and expected that even artists – usually individualistic in their expressions – need to work within perimeters of a program, but, shouldn’t they be allowed to employ their strengths within such boundary? My friend was tasked to do something with words, but not in the format of poems that is the heart and soul to her. Furthermore, the organizers’ design for the artists’ schedule resulted in a totally fragmented calendar, as if the artists don’t need time to work on their own projects during the semester. Maybe some of these organizers are not really good at “execution of realities?” Or, more likely, the organizers neglected to take into account the artists’ realities.
My point in describing this example is this: If we invest time upfront in understanding people’s natural talents and ensuring a fit between their skills and the tasks, we will create a team much more likely to produce even under the stressful circumstances that are the new normal for our workplaces. And when operations are smoother, we are less likely to waste time correcting mistakes and solving peripheral problems.
Categorizing people can be liberating when there is a great fit between people’s strengths and certain aspects of a task, but limiting when applied wrongly. In the “team dimensions” framework, there is another insidious consequence of categorization: We attach certain social values to each of the roles. For example, in some organizations, we tend to value “creator” over “executor,” or “analytical skills” over “advancing skills.” And in other organizations, the “sales/execution” gets the recognition over the “creative research.” These are artificial values; they are socially constructed. However, these biases impact how people push in certain directions, and how people win career advancement or financial rewards, regardless of where their true talents lie.
Finally, if a team ends up with more than half of its members loaded onto the execution side, this team may not grow quickly in generating new ventures. Or, a team with a majority in the “creator” role will not advance easily to getting ideas off the ground. I think the major challenges in forming a team using this “Team Dimension Profile” are: Who’s going to decide the team’s composition? What is to be done with the “excess” members of certain role(s)? Do you have any suggestions?
Till next time,
Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.
Direct Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Building Innovative Project Teams: Question of Selection or Process? (lenbrzozowski.wordpress.com)
- Introverts and Innovation: Unlocking the Full Potential (customerthink.com)
- Characteristics of Highly Creative People (creativitypost.com)