Ideas Need Room To Run, With Others

Have you ever tried creating a strategic plan by committee only to have every idea shot down before it has any chance to get traction?

Do you know the joy of agreeing on a plan only to have everyone leave the meeting confident nothing is going to happen?

These frustrating experiences can occur even if you’re working with experienced staff or highly knowledgable advisers. Maybe you’ve tried avoiding these fruitless efforts by hiring a facilitator, only to end up with the same result.

Getting a group of people to collaborate is much more difficult than it appears. Smart, interested and concerned people are not enough to guarantee success.

Last year I was introduced to a new tool called the Team Dimensions Profile. Created by motivational speaker Allen Fahden, chief executive officer of Innovation on Demand, it has been designed to increase the productivity of groups by organizing activities for individual participants based on their ‘team dynamic’ strengths.

These strengths are referred to by the acronym, CARE, which stands for creator, advancer, refiner and executor.

Allow good thinking to happen:

It turns out there are people who have the ability to come up with zillions of ideas, one right after the other, some good and some bad. Their priority is not to create quality, but to create ideas.

The problem with creators is they never seem to be able to stay focused on any one idea long enough to make it happen. Worse yet, most creators can’t think far enough ahead of their ideas to figure out how to implement them. This is where the advancers come in.

The advancer can ignore the quality of an idea and focus on how to make the idea work. It goes something like this…

A creator says, ‘Hey, I’ve got a great idea!’ Then the boss says ‘Sounds good. How do you propose we turn this idea into reality?’ And immediately the creator is out of his or her sweet spot.

In a good company with the right team dimensions, an advancer will be in that meeting. When the boss asks how, the advancer says “I know how’ and explains. Something no creator should ever be asked to do.

Then you need the refiner — the person that listens to the advancer explain how and then says, ‘This will never work. First of all, you can’t … And besides that, you won’t … And even if you get that far, you’re still going to have to deal with … . ’

And the idea has met its match. But wait, this is what the refiner is supposed to do! Zero in on the flaws and defects before the effort gets under way. This is the value of a refiner; to see all the cracks, flaws, and weak points in an idea or plan.

Don’t run with your idea:

Now you need the executor. The person who raises his or her hand and says ‘I have an idea too. How about if everyone gives me their information and lets me see what I can do with it. We can talk about this all day and nothing will get done. I’ve heard the good, the bad and the ugly. Now go away and let me make it happen!’

Imagine how powerful it could be if you could have all the people whose participation is perfectly scheduled by these four internal strengths, and brought into the meeting when needed.

Keep the refiners and executors out of the initial idea generation segment. The refiners will kill all the creativity in the room and the executors will be frustrated by the plans and ideas that keep changing.

On the other hand, keep the creators and advancers out of the room when it’s time to identify weaknesses and find ways to work around them. Those roles belong to the refiners and executors of the world.

One of my favorite Allen stories is when he talks about the cure for cancer. “How would you like to be known as the person who killed the idea for the cure for cancer?” Allen asked. “What if you were the one in that meeting and rolled your eyes when you heard it? Or the one who said it was a waste of time?”

There is a role for each of these behavioral types in the creative process. The trick is figuring out how to let the starters start and the finishers finish.


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