Have you ever participated in an innovation project? Have you ever worked as a member of an innovation project team on an innovation case that your senior management deemed important? Did you enjoy the entire project experience? Or did your find parts of the innovation workshop boring, tiring or otherwise de-energizing?
If you’re like most people, then probably you really enjoyed some parts of the innovation project, while other phases didn’t click with you — and you kept asking yourself ‘Why am I here?’
Why was that? Because of your preferred cognitive styles and your innovator profile. Let me explain who tends to enjoy and perform well when (i.e., in what kind of work phases or process stages) in an innovation project.
A creative process gives structure to an innovation project
In the era of the innovation economy, many companies set up dedicated innovation projects to tackle innovation challenges. Thereby, one or more project teams work on a case by going step-by-step through the stages of a creative process method, such as the classic Creative Problem-Solving Model (CPS, and its modern variations), the popular Design Thinking approach, or Thinkergy’s X-IDEA method.
Typically, such creative processes have from 3-6 distinct process stages that for a certain period of time invite would-be innovators to engage in specific styles of thinking, working, interacting, and “living”:
- Thinking: What style of thinking dominates in a particular stage? Some process stages require the team members to think more analytically and critically, other stages clearly invite them to think creatively, while many stages call for both styles of thinking.
- Working: Some process stages require the teams to work on assignments that are more abstract, conceptual and “big picture” in nature, while other stages are more practical, hands-on and detailed, and some have a mix of both.
- Interacting: The interactions and conversations between delegates are more fact-based in some stages, and more intuitive or empathetic in others, or may draw upon both.
- Living: The final aspect captures the levels of formality and energy of how the activities in any one stage are executed and approached. Some process stages unfold in a very formal, controlled and serious way, others are more free-flowing, playful and even apparently chaotic, while many have a healthy mix of formal order and flexible freedom.
By the way, unlike the default four stage-model of most creative processes, Thinkergy’s awards-winning innovation method X-IDEA unfolds in five stages: Xploration, Ideation, Development, Evaluation, and Action, Why? We passionately believe that in order to move beyond conventional ideas, a creative process method needs to have two distinct creative process stages (Ideation and Development) that differ in speed, energy and output focus (idea quality vs. concept quality). And we argued our case in an academic paper that we also summed up as a blog article.
Why do different people shine in different creative process stages?
Because in the creative process, the required styles of thinking, working, interacting and “living” change from stage to stage, it’s not surprising that different people tend to enjoy different process stages. Or more precisely: different innovator profiles with their preferred styles to think, work, interact and live.
Sadly, most companies have little to no idea of the preferred cognitive styles of each of their employees — and related, what kind of stages and activities in a creative process a particular employee tends to enjoy. Hence, they ask their employees to attend and work through all process stages of an innovation project, although most people only enjoy —and do well in— 2-3 out of 4-5 process stages (depending on the chosen innovation method or creative process model). In other words: Most people asked to join an innovation project feel like that they are wasting between 25-50% of their work time for something they don’t feel contributes much value — and don’t enjoy. Little wonder that organizations have begun experiencing the phenomenon of innovation fatigue.
How to understand the preferred cognitive styles of your people
Cognitive profiling tools aim to capture differences in the way people prefer to think and work with the help of a questionnaire that is linked to established theories on cognition.
Well-known cognitive profiling methods include Herrmann’s Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) or Alan Black’s MIND Design Concept — and for the past few years, there is also TIPS, Thinkergy’s Innovator Profiling System created to help individuals and organizations optimize the people side of business and innovation. TIPS introduces 11 distinct innovator profiles, each of which has a unique position on the TIPS Profiling Map that is spanned by the four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) and marked by the four TIPS styles (to think, work, interact, and live).
So who shines when in an innovation project?
Suppose you are a manager in charge of organizing and running an innovation project. You need to convince your busy colleagues to commit time for your project. Suppose further you know all the TIPS profiles of your colleagues (as your company has invested in TIPS as a personal assessment tool for talent acquisition, alignment & management — and for righting the people-side of innovation). Suppose finally you opt to run your innovation project by employing X-IDEA as your creative process method. So, what TIPS profiles tend to shine in what stages of X-IDEA? Or in other words: Who do you invite to participate in your innovation project? And when?
- Stage X—Xploration:
You kick-off your X-IDEA-powered innovation project with an initial Xploration Workshop of at least 2 days. What TIPS profiles should you invite to explore your case? Mostly the conceptual, brainy profiles revolving around the Theories- and Ideas-bases who enjoy doing Xploration: Theorists, Ideators and —in particular— Conceptualizers. Moreover, if your project has a strong customer focus, then also add a few Promoters and Partners; they infuse empathetic People-energy and ensure that your customers’ wants, needs and pains are considered, too. Mixed well together, these profiles take care that the innovation teams first Xpress what they do and don’t know about the case, then Xplore it from various perspectives, and finally Xtract novel insights before framing the final challenge.
- Stages I—Ideation and D—Development:
Next, you invite all the creative types to a 1-2 day-long Ideation & Development Workshop. You find these profiles with fantasy and creative energy located near the Ideas- and People-bases: Ideators, Imaginative Conceptualizers and Experimenters, Promoters and Partners enjoy both the frenzy of a wild Ideation-session and the design of novel, original and meaningful idea concepts in the Development-stage. Here, fill-up any gaps in the teams with All-Rounders and maybe also a few Theorists.
- Stage E—Evaluation:
Set aside half to —if you also do rapid prototyping— one day for an Evaluation-session, for which you need profiles representing the energies of all four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems). In particular, now is the time to bring in those critical, pragmatic profiles surrounding the Systems-base: Systematizers, Technocrats, Organizers, and Systematic Experimenters help the innovation teams to get real and down to business, thus making sure that those top ideas selected for implementation both make great meaning and are feasible to implement.
- Stage A—Action:
In the final stage of X-IDEA, Action, you compose an implementation project team involving profiles from all TIPS bases but the Theories-base to transform one top idea into a tangible innovation. While the team mostly consists of more operative, action-oriented profiles at the People- and Systems-base (Partners, Organizers, Systematizers, plus All-Rounders) to enjoy doing operative project work, you should also have at least one clear-cut Promoter and one well-developed Ideator on the team. Why? Your Promoter is the best person to pitch the idea to senior management and other key stakeholders, thus ensuring you secure the necessary budgets and other resources needed for implementation. And your Ideator can add drive and lots of ideas to the team, thus helping them to overcome operational issues, organizational obstacles and plain corporate inertia.
Conclusion: Boost innovation results by connecting the process-side to the people-side of innovation
Knowing the preferred cognitive styles of all their employees allows companies to staff innovation project teams in a more flexible, effective and productive way:
- More flexible: Invite different innovator profiles for different creative process stages held on different workshop days.
- More effective: By adhering to point 1, you demonstrate that you respect the time constraints and preferred cognitive styles of your employees.
- More productive: Because of points 1 and 2, all workshop delegates in the innovation teams play on their preferred cognitive styles all of the time. Because the team members feel more engaged and involved, you’re highly likely to have better results in the innovation project — and more commitment to innovation in general.
But do all of these benefits justify the investment in a cognitive profiling test for all people involved in innovation in your company? Modern knowledge workers often cost a company at least $150-200 per workday. Every day wasted in an innovation project team that is in a process stage that doesn’t suit the preferred cognitive style of your employee means burning that amount of money. Compare that with a small one-time investment of just $89 for a TIPS online profiling test (which also offers many other applications in innovation and beyond for business in general), and you have your ROI justification.
So, what’s your TIPS innovator profile? And related to that, what are your preferred cognitive styles? When will you get yourself and your colleagues TIPS-ed?
- Click here to register and buy a coupon ($89) for your TIPS online personality test now.
- Contact us to learn more about our experiential, eye-opening TIPS training courses.
© Dr. Detlef Reis 2018