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  • How to Communicate More Empathetically with TIPS?

    “When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” 

    - Stephen Covey

    Let’s face it: In business, we regularly need to convince people to embrace a new idea, to share our vision of a better future, to buy a new product, or take any other meaningful course of action. To convince people of a new idea, better communicate with empathy. Relate to their ways and show sympathy to their desires, wants, and needs. But how can you do this? How can you find out what makes them tick? Today, let’s discuss how you can communicate with greater empathy with the help of TIPS, Thinkergy’s cognitive profiling test for business and innovation.

    What does it mean to communicate and convince empathetically?

    Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. On the other hand, communication means the imparting or exchange of information or news; the term can also be defined as the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings. Finally, to convince means to persuade someone to do something .

    Taken all together, we can say that when we communicate empathetically, we successfully convey information and share ideas and feelings with another person while being able to relate to and understand their feelings, wants, and needs. We want to communicate with greater empathy to persuade people to do something we believe is good for them.

    Why should you communicate more empathetically?

    “Empathy is one of our greatest tools of business that is most underused.”

    - Mexican-American billionaire businessmen Daniel Lubetzky

    When we empathize while communicating with other people, we pay respect to their world views and their preferred styles to think, work, interact, and live. We sympathize with their points of view. We talk the same language as them. We relate to their wants, desires and needs. We feel their challenges and pains. We put ourselves in their shoes and walk a mile in these to experience the world as they do. Showing empathy makes us aware that for most situations in business and life, there is more than just one truth. In short, sympathizing with others and communicating with greater empathy makes it easier to create win-win solutions. 

    How to plan and structure a more empathetic communication

    Widely popular in marketing, advertising, and sales, the AIDA model (attention, interest, desire, action) can help us to think about the different phases of empathetic communication:

    • Approach and attention: How to best approach people with a particular personality? How to best reach out and connect with them? How to get their attention?
    • Interest: How to open them up? How to engage them and get them interested in a topic?
    • Desire: How to make them gain a favorable disposition towards an idea? How to find a shared point of view that aligns both interests? What triggers can alleviate their pain or inspire their desire? 
    • Action: How to convince them and make them agree to a mutually beneficial course of action?

    It is important to point out that communicating with empathy and respect isn’t the same as manipulating people. When we interact empathetically, we look for ways to convince others to take a beneficial course of action that is good for them and us (win-win). In contrast, when someone communicates with the intent to manipulate, that person typically wants to influence others to take a particular action that solely or predominantly benefits themselves (win-lose).

    How to communicate more empathetically with people from different TIPS bases

    While you may not be able to guess someone’s TIPS profile right away, you probably have a rough idea about which TIPS base orientation a particular colleague or client of yours is attracted to. Your intuition about a person’s likely TIPS base may serve as a gauge to direct your communication approach. You may gain further hints if you listen for certain keywords that people of the different TIPS base tend to use frequently. (I discussed this in an earlier article  titled What “keywords” reveal about people’s personality). 

    So how can we communicate with greater empathy with the people from each TIPS base? 

    How to communicate more empathetically with “T-People” at the Theories-base?

    Approach & attention: Most people you find at the Theories-base (“T-People”) tend to be more private. If you want to initially make contact with them, then best do it in writing via email or more sophisticated social media such as LinkedIn. Before you compose your message, find out more about what’s their expertise. Then, ask a few precise questions to get them talking (such as “What research project do you currently work on?” or “What book are you reading at the moment?”). If you want to meet them in person, be respectful and courteous, and avoid “invading their space”. Ask for permission first before entering their office (e.g., “Excuse me, may I have a moment of your time?”).

    Interest: Prepare and research data and information in advance before talking with T-People. Let them take their time to get interested in talking to you. Tell them that you’re interested in their expertise, and give them a plausible reason why. Invite them to share their knowledge with you. Be a good listener, and ask precise questions to let them share their opinions. 

    Desire: To make T-People gain a favorable disposition towards an idea, get them to talk about the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of it. Then, ask them for their ideas on how to mitigate or resolve the cons that every idea has. Finally, line up a logical chain of arguments that leads to a definite conclusion supporting your line of thought that the idea is truly worthy.

    Action: Prepare and show hard logical evidence that highlights the value potential and feasibility of your idea. Alternatively, convince T-People with ‘demonstration’ (e.g., by showing a prototype). Convince T-People to agree to a suggested, beneficial course of action by showing that the evidence-supported idea both supports their favored theoretical perspectives and will work in practice.

     “Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives,” 

    - Oprah Winfrey. 

    How to communicate more empathetically with “I-People” at the Ideas-base?

    Approach and attention:  I-People are pretty informal and casual, so it’s comparatively easy to approach them provided you do this at the right time. Connect with them in the mid to late afternoon or early evening when they have completed their main creative work for the day and are open for fresh inspiration. The ideal way to grab the attention of an I-person is to take notice of what’s “individual” about them. I-People tend to be highly individualized and like to stand out from the crowd, so compliment them on an extravagant fashion accessory or a colorful piece of clothing that they use to flag their originality.

    Interest: At first, engage I-People in small talk about the latest trends in technologies, inventions, fashions, lifestyles, and traveling. Ask them about these trends and the ‘future’, then listen to their viewpoints and ideas and expand on them by sharing our opinion. Also, share information about new toys, gadgets, apps, tools or games with them, and ask them about their hobbies. 

    Desire: After you’ve gained an I-Person’s recognition as a worthy fellow-avant-gardist, it’s time to get down to business. Briefly explain what’s your challenge and related goal, and share the essential information. Then, continue by sharing your ideas or your vision of a better future. Make your pitch lively and energetic, and communicate using lots of visuals and fewer words. Finally, invite the I-people to contribute additional ideas to expand on your idea or vision. Open the door for them to showcase their creativity. Show them how much you appreciate their ideas, and treat them like a creativity ‘guru’ to keep them energized.

    Action: Convince I-People of your vision and persuade them to agree to support you or buy into your idea. Sell them the inspiration and the “product of the product”, the higher-order value of your idea. (For example, making humanity multi-planetary is the higher-order value behind Elon Musk’s vision of humans settling down on Mars. Musk believes pursuing this goal is essential to ensure humanity’s continuance as a species.) Emphasize the idea of “doing it together,” ask how to get started quickly, and support their ideas. Then, let them take action to take the first step and give them the freedom to do as they think is appropriate.

    How to communicate more empathetically with “P-People” at the People-base?

    Approach and attention: P-people are super-social, so they’re easy to approach almost anytime. If you don’t yet know them well, then first contact and befriend them on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, or approach them on a networking event. Then, invite them for an informal face-to-face meeting over coffee or lunch, and build a good relationship with them first and become familiar with other people in their work team or key social groups. Later on, regularly hangout together and buy and bring snacks and sweets when you meet. 

    Interest: Be talkative and casual when you meet with P-people. Talk about current affairs, fashion and lifestyle topics, and ask them about their hobbies, family and friends, and other colleagues in their team. If possible, include humor and jokes to your communication. 

    Desire: Share your view of a challenge that society, their community, or their business faces right now. Describe the situation, the challenge, and what we ideally want to achieve in a simple way. Speak with sincerity and honesty to them. Then, ask them to share their opinion on the issue. Suggest to brainstorm more ideas on how to address the issue together, and suggest your main idea alongside others while complimenting their ideas. Later on, come back to your main idea that you want them to embrace, then ask them for advice. Highlight the benefits of your idea to society, a community, or their business, and how you’d like to make this idea happen together. 

    Action: Show them that the idea and the related activities are not challenging to do. Suggest to implement the idea together and to jointly make it successfully. Then, take joint action and thank them for their help. After finishing the work, take them for drinks and hang-out together to celebrate the successful completion of the joint project.

    How to communicate more empathetically with “S-People” at the Systems-base?

    Approach and attention: Systems-people are formal and proper in their business conduct, so make an official appointment and create an agenda for an important meeting with them that you share in advance. If you call them by phone, arrange a time to talk or ask them if it’s convenient for them to talk now. Be organized and timely in your communications with S-people, and talk with clear purpose. 

    Interest: Get them talking first. Ask them: “What concerns you?” to learn more about their current issues and concerns. Then, share with them your idea on how you may help them alleviate their pains. Prepare specific information and a clear requirement for them that support your view. Be aware that S-people love to say “no” to ideas and find many reasons as to why not to do new things, and deal with any critical remarks from them in a positive, assertive way and not change anything

    Desire: Explain what is the situation that you want to help them to address proactively. Be direct and to the point. To counter their tendency to wait until the last minute before making a change, ask them the question: “What happens if you continue to do nothing?” Appeal to their sense for security and mitigating risks. 

    Action:  When you make a case to S-people, don’t leave room for imagination (they’re not into this). Prepare the pertinent facts, names, and evidence that supports your idea. Then, take the time to explain step-by-step what you want to do with them, thereby being as detailed and explicative as possible. Provide all missing & complete information like timeline, objective, etc., so they can see what’s it like and like and reasonable for them. Set a timeline and specify expected the results. Then, let them plan how to proceed best and take action by themselves. Most importantly, show them how your idea positively affects the bottom line, how it improves ROI, or how it increases efficiency. By providing detailed information, you can convince them that following your suggested course of action is a reasonable, feasible, and safe thing that they should do.

    Conclusion: Tune into the right frequency to empathetically broadcast your call to action

    How did I collect the information on how we may communicate with greater empathy with people from each TIPS base? This is based on the collective feedback of those people who populate each base on how they wish to be talked to and convinced of following a suggestion of taking a certain meaningful course of action. Let me explain.

    One of the many games and exercises we play with delegates attending one of our TIPS Innovation Profiling workshops is “The TIPS Empathy Game”. Thereby, we split the delegates into four “base teams” based on their dominant TIPS base. Then, using the AIDA questions as a guiding reference, each TIPS ‘base team” outlines how they intend to empathetically relate to the people from the other bases. Moreover, they also specify how to best approach, communicate with, and convince them. Finally, we go through each TIPS base and see how close the other teams meet the preferred communication needs that each base team outlined for themselves. For each presentation round, the “real base team” decides which of the other teams is closest to their preferred communication patterns and thus becomes its “Base Babe” (and earns points).

    • Would you like to find out more about our highly edutaining TIPS training for your team?
    • Do you want to learn more about TIPS? Take a look at our TIPS website and our brand new TIPS brochure.
    • Are you curious about what’s your TIPS profile? Buy your TIPS online profiling test coupon for USD 89 now.
    • Contact us to tell us more about yourself and how we may help you. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019

  • How to Find the People to Drive Digital Innovation

    These days, many companies are interested in pursuing digital development initiatives and more progressive innovation projects. Why is that? The advent of the innovation economy and digital transformation will drive economies in the coming decades. Moreover, within the next couple of years, we’ll see the beginning of a new long cycle of technological and economic development: the Sixth Wave. Each long wave brings forth 2-3 new lead technologies that drive economic growth for a couple of decades. Each wave also sees the rise of a few start-up ventures that develop into market-dominating corporations. For example, companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook have risen to prominent positions in the present Fifth Wave driven by information technology, the Internet, and social networks. Apart from clean technologies and biotechnology & genomics, digital transformation triggered by artificial intelligence (AI), big data and automatization are predicted to drive the upcoming Sixth Wave (ca. 2020-2045). 

    To survive and thrive in times of exponential change, and to master digital transformation, established corporations need to start a new creative growth cycle. But where and how to find the creative and digital types to drive these new initiatives?

    Enter TIPS

    TIPS is Thinkergy’s innovator profiling system. We developed this comparatively new cognitive profiling method to better deal with the people side of business and innovation. The TIPS method consists of two overlapping theoretical constructs:

    • On the one hand, the four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) describe four social and technological base orientations that drive technological, social, economic, and political change. TIPS asserts that most people’s behaviors and actions go back to one or two of these fundamental base orientations.
    • On the other hand, the four TIPS styles (to think, work, interact, and live) illustrate the preferred cognitive styles of people. Thereby, each style comes in three possible expressions (e.g., Fact, Feeling, and Fact & Feeling for the interaction style).

    Put together, the four TIPS bases and the four TIPS styles form a profiling map that gives room for ten plus one distinct innovator profiles. Also, these two theoretical constructs allow us to identify those creative and digital types within and outside your organization.

    Where to find the creative and digital types?

    Nowadays, many corporations want to identify those creative and digital types within their knowledge workforce. These two target groups locate at certain TIPS bases, and exhibit specific dominant TIPS styles:

    • The “digital types” revolve around the TIPS bases Theories and Ideas and are “Brain-workers”, which characterizes their dominant TIPS style. How does this connect to TIPS Profiles? Conceptualizers and Theorists are best equipped to play a significant role in digital projects. They may be supported by Ideators, Imaginative Experimenters, and Theoretical Technocrats as supplementary team members. 
    • In contrast, we can find the “creative types” at the Ideas- and People-bases. They tend to be “Fantasy-thinkers”, which is the dominant cognitive style that matters here. Ideators and Promoters are best suited to drive progressive innovation projects. They may be supported by empathetic Partners, Imaginative Conceptualizers, and Imaginative Experimenters.

    As the illustration below shows, the two groups overlap at the Ideas-base, indicating that those profiles touching this base can take part in both digital and creative project initiatives.

    How to find the creative and digital types?

    With the emergence of TIPS as a new cognitive profiling method for the digital innovation economy, it’s easy to identify the digital and creative types in your organization. Just get all your in-house talents and potential recruits TIPS-ed. In other words, have everyone take our TIPS online test. If you want to get a larger number of your knowledge workers TIPS-ed, you may qualify for a special volume pricing (which we offer for organizations that buy test coupons in bulk).

    After you’ve tested your talents with TIPS, map out the results on a TIPS Profiling Map that shows everyone’s profile type and top scores. An earlier blog article discussed how you could do this. If you like (and have a budget), we can also create the profiling maps and a results matrix for you. 

    Once you’ve identified the digital and creative types, what next?

    TIPS allows you to find those types who, based on their cognitive predispositions and preferences, are qualified to drive or take part in digital projects or progressive innovation projects. However, knowing that someone has the talent to work in digital or creative development projects doesn’t automatically mean that they are ready with the word “go”. It is more likely that many of these “digital” and “creative” talents may lack specific knowledge and skills to do so well right away. Why? If they finished their formal education a few years ago, it is unlikely that courses related to digitalization, creativity, and innovation were part of their curricula. 

    As such, you need to start talent development initiatives to equip those digital and creatives types with the necessary know-how to play out their natural strengths. (You may also want to take a look at this article on talent development titled Who should be trained in what?): 

    • Nowadays, it’s easy to find training programs in structured innovation methods (such as Design Thinking or our X-IDEA method). In the past years, some business schools have added creativity courses into their graduate programs or even began offering progressive new graduate programs. (One example here is the Master in Business Innovation program provided by the Institute for Knowledge and Innovation, South-East Asia (IKI-SEA) at Bangkok University). Thinkergy even delivers training courses in “advanced creativity” (based on our Genius Journey method that allows firms to develop their top talents into creative leaders).
    • However, the situation is slightly different when it comes to training courses in digital contents. Here, a suitable way to quickly upskill your top digital talents is to enroll them in online training courses (such as Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning, Machine Learning, Data Analytics, and programming languages such as Java or Python).

    As such, get ready to invest in training programs to upskill your in-house digital and creative talents. Equip them with the knowledge and skills they still lack to contribute their natural strengths to digital initiatives and innovation projects. (And of course, consider also bringing in selected outside talent and fresh graduates who studied computer science or innovation).

    How to prevent your digital and creative talents from leaving your organization?

    In the coming years, the creative and, in particular, digital types will be in high demand and short supply. So, expect headhunters and competitors to approach your digital talents and top creative types regularly. What can you do to keep all those creative and digital talents in your ranks happy?

    1. Pay them well in line with —or better— above the market rates for comparable positions in digital transformation and innovation.
    2. Manage them in harmony with their preferred cognitive styles. What does this mean? Do not micromanage them. Do create a free-flowing work environment with flexible work hours. Finally, do expose them to challenging digital or creative work assignments.
    3. Create a “dual career track system” that allows digital and creative “Brainiacs” to advance in their careers (both hierarchically and financially) without having to become managers. Why? The best middle managers are “Brawniacs” who enjoy “sweating the small stuff” and taking care of all the details. In contrast, the abstract, conceptual digital types dislike “managing” and are not good at doing. (Learn more about the Brainiac-Brawniac work dilemma in an earlier blog article).

    Conclusion: It’s all about knowing how to find, develop, and keep creative and digital talents

    TIPS allows you to identify who in your workforce has a natural cognitive predisposition to partake in digital or progressive innovation projects. Some of these digital and creative talents may already have the necessary repertoire  of pertinent knowledge and skills to get going right away. You need to develop most others by offering them tailored development programs with a mix of offline and online training courses. 

    So, get ready to invest in competing in the innovation economy and master digital transformation successfully. First, invest in a cognitive profiling exercise of your workforce to identify the digital and creative types. Then, invest in digital and creative talent development initiatives to quickly close identified knowledge and skills gaps. Finally, invest in keeping compensation and rewards schemes that keep your talents happy.

    What’s the alternative? Fading into irrelevance and eventually becoming obsolete with your methods and technologies, products, and company.

    • Download the TIPS brochure, or check out our TIPS website, to learn more about TIPS?
    • Check out our TIPS online test and get TIPS-ed now
    • Are you interested in one of our TIPS training courses?
    • Or would you be interested to profile a larger number of employees and would be interested in our bulk-buy pricing for TIPS?

    Contact us to tell us more how we may help you find and develop those digital and creative types in your organization.


  • How to Hire the Right Talents with TIPS

    Have you ever heard of the expression “put the right man into the right job”? Bet you have. Given the wide popularity of this cliché, we can expect that most companies are doing a good job when hiring the right person for an open position, can’t we? Interestingly, numerous surveys indicate the opposite. Today, let’s explore why talent acquisition is so challenging for most companies, and how the inclusion of a cognitive profiling tool such as TIPS can help you to increase the odds of hiring the right person for the right job.

    Background: The staffing game

    In the TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop, one game we play with delegates is a staffing game. Whereby, each team has to staff 11 open positions related to innovation. They have 15 candidates (each featured with a short biographical and professional profile) who vie to get hired. For every position, there is one ideal candidate (“the right person for the right job”). Moreover, just like in real life, among the applicants there are also a few “wrong people” (whose profile descriptions are based on famous movie villains).

    At the end of the game, most teams have succeeded in putting at least a few right people into the right job. Typically, they will also have hired one or more of the villains (and often will have even placed the “wrong person into the right job”, thus setting them up for causing maximum damage). Clearly, staffing is important and difficult, which is the key message we want to convey to delegates with the little game. 

    The scope and cost of poor hiring

    We intend our TIPS staffing game to represent reality. So, how do companies perform in hiring or talent acquisition game in real life? Here are a selected few of many sobering statistics on the success ratios and related costs of hiring: 

    • In a 2017 survey by CareerBuilder, three out of four companies admitted to have hired the wrong person for a position. Companies estimated the average loss per poor hire at roughly USD 15,000.
    • Forbes estimates the typical cost of replacing an employee at 21% of their annual salary.
    • According to a study from the National Business Research Institute, two out of three employers reported they experienced negative effects of bad hires in 2016. Putting the “wrong person into the right job” led to a decrease in sales for 10% of these companies, and negatively affected employee morale (37%) and client relationships (18%). 
    • According to the Harvard Business Review, 80% of employee turnover has its roots from bad hiring decisions.

    Given the low success rates of putting the right person into the right job, a cynic may be tempted to recommend a hiring line manager and supporting Human Resources manager to save time and costs and rather flip a coin on the top candidates. This may increase their success ratio. So, is there anything that companies can do to improve their odds of recruiting the right talent for the right job? 

    Yes. Include a cognitive profiling tool (such as Herrmann’s Brain Dominance Instrument or Alan Black’s free MIND Design concept) into the recruitment exercise. Or simply use TIPS.

    What is TIPS? And how can it help you in talent acquisition?

    In our TIPS staffing game, the job descriptions of the 11 vacant positions connect to the 11 TIPS innovator profiles. I based the applicant profile of the “right person” for each “right job” on the personality characteristics and biographical data of a famous real-life innovator (for example, Walt Disney is the ideal fit for the open position that calls for the creative change energy of an Ideator, while the Experimenter profile draws upon Apple’s Chief Designer Jonathan Ive). Of course, I created the job profiles and applicant profiles for the TIPS staffing game on the drawing board, but we would largely employ a similar procedure in a real-life hiring project for a company:  

    • You have job positions that connect to certain profiles in TIPS. 
    • You have candidates who apply for the job.
    • We assign a TIPS profile to each applicant depending on how they answer the TIPS questionnaire. 
    • Because all questions in the TIPS questionnaire connect to the four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) and the four TIPS styles (to think, work, interact and live), we gain a lot of data input for detailed follow-up questions that allows us —and you!— to check not only how well the different candidates cognitively fit a particular position, but also how consistently and congruently they have answered. 

    How can you use TIPS to hire the right person?

    Below, I outline a 7-step process on how to include TIPS (or a similar cognitive profiling tool of your choice) as part of your hiring process and toolset:

    1. Describe the open position in detail. For each open position, create a detailed job description that outlines the following: a) Job title or name; b) Role summary; c) Duties & responsibilities; d) Qualifications & skills; e) Decision authority; f) Performance goals and desired target outputs.
    2. Translate each open job position into a compatible TIPS profile. When we consult companies on important hiring projects, we work with the hiring managers to help them figure out the ideal TIPS profile for a particular position. We do this by using a card set with descriptive adjective labels that relate to the different positions and profiles. Apart from a primary target profile, we also identify 2-3 “secondary profiles” that represent good (but not “ideal”) fits.
      For example, suppose you wanted to hire a Finance Manager. Then, you may pick descriptive attribute cards such as  “quantitative”, “analytical” and “controlling”. The ideal TIPS profile to fit this position is a Technocrat, with Systematizers or Theorists being possibles. In contrast, say you needed to recruit a new Creative Director for an Ad Agency. Here, you probably look for someone who is “creative”, “flamboyant” and “expressive”. So, a Promoter would be the best fitting TIPS profile, with Ideators and Partners being acceptable alternatives.
    3. Have all shortlisted candidates take the TIPS online test. Contact Thinkergy or a certified TIPS trainer or coach to order a TIPS online test for each candidate (if you order larger numbers in bulk, you can enjoy a price benefit). After you’ve paid for the test, each candidate gets a test coupon to complete the test. We make sure that just like the candidate, you will receive a copy of their reports with their test results.
    4. Analyze the cognitive job fit of each candidate. Do one or more candidates fully fit the ideal profile identified in step 1? Do some of the applicants profile as one of the secondary profiles? Who doesn’t seem to fit the open position well based on their cognitive profiling test result? 
    5. Consider having a certified TIPS coach take part in the final job interviews. Especially if you have to fill a vacancy in senior management, or plan to recruit a larger number of people, consider inviting a certified TIPS coach to be part of the interview committee. For each candidate, your TIPS coach will do a deeper level analysis of the overall TIPS test results and all individual answers, and use the insights to devise a set of practical questions for the job interview (e.g., “You answered in your TIPS questionnaire that you always plan your work day and tend to stick to what’s scheduled. Can you walk us through a typical workday of yours, and give us some examples?”).
      By paying close attention to the verbal and non-verbal answers to such probing questions, it’s more likely to spot inconsistencies in the way candidates portray themselves in the test, and how they answer when put on the spot in the interview. Thereby, your TIPS coach will also listen for keywords that candidates habitually use, as the different profiles tend to use certain words more frequently than the other profiles.
      This plausibility check can both help you avoid hiring “false positives” (people who pretend to be the right person for the job, but likely have a different cognitive profile in reality than they portrayed themselves to have while answering the online test) and “false negatives” ( i.e., those sociopaths, bullies and tyrants who tend to hide their self-centred, misanthropic and antisocial behaviours in normal interviews, and who 66% of companies in the NBRI study only identified as a bad hire ex post after they had ran havoc on their business). 
    6. Specify the cognitive fit of each candidate to an open position. Finally, your TIPS coach can classify all shortlisted candidates into three categories: “Ideal fits” (candidates who fit the ideal profile and seem to answer coherently and plausibly); “possibles” (secondary TIPS profiles); and “non-fits” (other TIPS profiles — or all candidates with too many implausible, incongruent answers), If desired, your TIPS coach can also rank the candidates in relation to their perceived fit to the open position, or assign them a rating score (say, from 1 to 6).
    7. Finally, decide. At the end of the day, your recruitment committee or senior managers need to make a decision on who to hire. Alongside other factors, such as each candidates’ perceived (a) professional fit(their knowledge, skills and experiences repertoires) and (b) cultural & value fit, the c) cognitive fit is one key decision criteria to consider. If you use a rational decision-making tool (such as the Weighted Scoring Model), each of these criteria would be one line in your decision matrix for which you would need to agree on a proportional weight. Then, each manager involved in the hiring decision would rate each candidate for each decision criteria. Finally, you can compute the “rational choice”. Before you go on and act on the hiring decision, however, ask how everyone involved in the process feels about the choice, thus allowing those with a bad gut feeling about the “optimal” candidate to speak up and voice their concern.

    Conclusion: Include cognitive profiling tests in your talent acquisition efforts

    Using a sophisticated cognitive profiling tool as part of your standard recruitment toolkit can noticeably improve your odds of success in hiring the right person for the right job (so you can use that coin for another purpose than flipping heads and tails on candidates). But does it fully protect you from hiring the “wrong man” for the “right job”? While it doesn’t give you complete certainty, it will make it more likely that you can identify potential bad hires in advance. 

    Imagine that the “Joker” from the Batman movies (who is one of the villains in our TIPS staffing game) applied for a job in your product development team. In TIPS, the Joker would profile as an Ideator, thus making him an ideal fit for product development. So, how can you avoid releasing a series of new “explosive” products into the market in the coming years? Simply involve a certified TIPS coach into the interview process. Have her ask the right probing questions, then listen between the lines for revelations of bad character (for example, when asked for his preferred creative process, someone like the Joker may state that “every act of creation is first an act of destruction”), and you’re more likely to spot those villains in fiction and in real life ahead of time.

    Do you want to learn more about TIPS? Would you like find out more about our TIPS training for your organization? Or would you like us to help you in your talent acquisition efforts in a TIPS consulting project? Contact us to tell us more about how we may help you. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018


  • How to Scrutinize Popular Cognitive Profiling Methods (Part 1)

    What if you were hired by a mature corporation as their new innovation manager. One of your first tasks is to find all the creative talents within the organization. What will you do? Will you walk around and observe how people dress and behave at work to pinpoint the creative types? Or interview everyone? Whatever you do, chances are that while you surely can expect having some hits, you’re likely to also have a lot of misses — and a lot of “false positives”. So what else can you do? Here cognitive profiling tools can come to your aid and rescue — provided you pick the right one. 

    What are cognitive profiling methods?

    Cognitive profiling methods and —in a wider sense— personality-profiling instruments use well-structured questionnaires to determine the preferred cognitive styles of people. Ideally, the questions asked in the survey relate to certain psychological dimensions or cognitive styles that form the theoretical underpinning of a particular method. As such, these tests aim to capture differences in people’s personal preferences in areas such as cognition, behavior at work, communication and creative problem-solving, and innovation, among others.

    Typically, respondents self-assess their preferred ways with regards to the set of questions (known as personal assessment). In behavioral personality tests, however, other people report on the observed behavior of an evaluatee; in professional settings, this is often done as a “360 degree evaluation” involving a mix of superiors, subordinates, and professional peers.

    Based on the chosen answers, the evaluatee is then assigned a profiling score and/or a personality profile that describes their psychological preferences or preferred cognitive styles.

    Why are personality test and cognitive profiling methods useful?

    Critics belittle personal assessment tools by saying that they are pseudoscientific and no better than reading horoscopes. In contrast, proponents (and I am one of them) see value in using these methods to ensure a better alignment of people to environments that allow them to play on their natural talents.

    Personality tests and cognitive profiling tools give the respondents greater self-awareness on their preferred ways and cognitive styles, and on their natural talent as well as likely strengths and weaknesses related to a particular profile or profiling result. 

    These tests also give people- and team-awareness to managers and colleagues who work together in a team, so that they not only know what makes themselves tick, but also what makes everyone else in a work team tick.

    To harness such higher self- and people-awareness, some methods propose specific applications for improving business performance, such as a more focused career planning, talent development, effective team-building, and the like.

    An overview of existing cognitive style profiling concepts

    Nowadays, you can easily google the keywords “personality test” or “cognitive profiling” to find a myriad of different personality or cognitive profiling tools, each of which has its merit in one way or another. So, which cognitive profiling method may work for you? Well, it all depends on what you want to find out and want to use the method for. So, to get started, let me introduce a few profiling concepts to you that are either highly popular or which caught my interest while I was investigating different methods for their suitability to explain and support the people-side of creativity and innovation: 

    • Arguably the most widely used psychometric instrument is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). MBTI goes back on the work of the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung, who introduced three dimensions to capture differences in personal style: Extraversion (E) vs. Introversion (I); iNutuition (N) vs Sensing (S); and Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F). Later on, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers augmented the Jungian preferences by a fourth dimension (Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)) and developed the MBTI typology of sixteen personality types. After taking a questionnaire, test subjects are assigned their profile type based on the letter combination of the highest score for each preferences (e.g. I come out as an ENTP). 
    • In his Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS), David Keirsey expanded the MBTI concept by introducing a new hierarchy of the MBTI dimensions and by grouping the types according to Plato’s four classic temperaments (e.g., guardian, artisan, idealist, rational). In addition, Keirsey suggested useful descriptive names for each of the MBTI types (e.g., the inventor in the case of the ENTP). 
    • Developed by the psychologist Ned Herrmann, the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) is yet another well-liked concept to measure and describe thinking preferences in people. HBDI is based on a two-dimensional model grounded in theories on the development of the human brain. It distinguishes four brain modes (a cerebral vs. limbic mode and a left vs. right mode), and measures four related cognitive styles (A. analytical; B. practical; C. emotional; and D. experimental). The scores of an individual’s test result are presented within the context of a profiling map that shows which of the four styles is predominantly used by a test subject.
    • A related concept that leans on Herrmann’s model is the M.I.N.D. Design concept (M.I.N.D.) by Robert Alan Black. Like HBDI, Black distinguishes four styles that also christen the concept (M – Meditative; I – Intuitive; N – Negotiative; D – Directive), and uses the test results to indicate the extent to which a test subject draws upon each of the four styles. However, unlike the 120 profiling questions of HBDI, Black uses only nine questions to arrive at a largely accurate test result and descriptive report. 
    • An important profiling tool to captures style differences in creative problem-solving and innovation is Michael Kirton’s Adaption-Innovation Inventory (KAI). KAI captures on a one-dimensional scale the degree to which someone prefers to think and work as an adapter (who likes improving on existing concepts) or an innovator (who enjoys coming up with new solutions). 
    • Roger Hamilton’s Wealth Dynamics (WD) concept also draws upon some constructs from Carl Jung’s work on personality style, but merges them with elements of the classic Chinese I Ching concept. WD uses four variables (dynamo, blaze, tempo, steel) to assign test subjects one of eight profiles (e.g., creator, star, supporter, deal-maker, among others). What is special about the WD concept is that Hamilton describes how certain profile types are better suited to lead a company at different points of time as the venture evolves and moves through the company life cycle. 
    • One more profiling concept that works with only two Jungian dimensions (extraversion vs. introversion and thinking vs. feeling) is Insights Discovery. Created by a father and son team (Andi and Andy Lothian), the concept turns a 2×2-matrix into four color types (fiery red, sunshine yellow, earth green, cool blue) and then arrives at eight colored profile types with business-related names (e.g. director, motivator, inspirer). 
    • Another well-known profiling instrument is the DISC behaviour assessment tool. Grounded in Marston’s DISC theory, this tool measures the prevalence of four different behavioural traits (dominance, influence, steadiness, and compliance) in a person. In its original version, it assigns a person one of 15 profile patterns (named achiever, investigator, developer, among others) based on the test results. 
    • Other cognitive profiling tools that you may come across include Miller’s Innovation Styles concept, Lafferty’s Life Styles Inventory (LSI), the Big Five personality traits (also known as the Five Factor Model), or the Enneagram.

    Yet other popular profiling tests don’t target personality or cognitive style, but emphasize other aspects that may also give useful hints. For example, Don Clifton’s Strengthfinder test determines the top 5 strengths of a person (from an overall set of 34 talent themes). For example, my top 5 talents when I did the test in 2008 were “intellection, ideation, input, learner, competition’.

    So which cognitive profiling tool should you use?

    My advice is to test every new profiling tool you come across and find appealing to possibly learn new nuances about yourself. You will notice that some tools really “click” with you and offer valuable new insights, while others may be well-reputed but don’t resonate with you. Never mind, that’s part of learning more about yourself.

    In any case, the more tools you use, the more you notice that certain personality traits and cognitive styles seem to overlap across various tests, thus pointing to a particular direction where your unique personality and related cognitive styles and talents reside. And the more tests you do, the more you also come across some surprising new factors that make you one-of-a-kind. It’s just like collecting more and more jigsaw pieces of nuances of your personality, and once you find the right missing piece, you suddenly see a wonderful wholesome picture of who you really are. 

    But coming back to our introductory scenario: What cognitive profiling tool can help you as a supposedly newly appointed Innovation Manager to reliably identify those creative types in your organization who genuinely are drivers and agents of innovation and organization change? And what tool can give you hints on how you can make everyone contribute to innovation in line with their preferred styles and natural talents? 

    For almost a decade, I hunted for such a cognitive profiling tool to lighten up the people-side of innovation, testing method after method with always the same result: Most methods had certain aspects that I really liked and found valuable and accurate, but also had some “bugs” or delivery gaps that I perceived to be sub-optimal, missing or plain “wrong”. And while thinking about how to improve on these perceived shortcomings, I suddenly had created my own profiling concept: TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling system.

    I created TIPS with the intent to give individuals and organizations clear insights on how everyone can contribute to corporate innovation by using the preferred styles of each profile type. The TIPS innovation people-profiling method draws inspirations from theoretical constructs of a range of earlier cognitive profiling concepts listed above, but also includes new concepts adapted from other disciplines (e.g. evolutionary economics and social science).

    Interim conclusion and outlook

    While testing a great variety of different cognitive profiling tools and online personality tests, I’ve learned how to scrutinize the underlying conceptual constructs and design architecture of such methods. What conceptual features do almost all of these methods have in common? What shortcomings did I notice in many of the tools that I tested? And how does TIPS aim to cure these perceived ills? In two weeks, you’ll get the answers to these questions in a sequel to this article. 

    Do you want to learn more about TIPS? Would you like find out more about our TIPS training for your organization? Or would you like to take the TIPS profiling test yourself? Contact us and let us know more how we may help you. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018

  • How to improve teamwork with TIPS

    In less than three months, the FIFA World Cup in Russia will kick off. Chances are that after the final, not the national squad with the most glamorous star, but the one with the best team will lift World Cup. What’s true in football is true in business, too: great teamwork matters. Today, let’s look at the art of composing and developing an effective team in business with the help of TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method.

    Introducing TIPS

    TIPS is a new cognitive profiling method that I’ve created for Thinkergy. The acronym TIPS stands for four base orientations (theories, ideas, people, systems) that drive people’s behavior in life and at work. With the help of a questionnaire that probes for these four bases and for four related cognitive styles, we profile people into one of 11 innovator profiles (Theorist, Ideator, Partner, Systematizer, Conceptualizer, Promoter, Organizer, Technocrat, Coach, Experimenter and All-Rounder).


    Each TIPS profile has certain natural talents and preferred styles that allow them to perform easily, effortlessly and enjoyably in certain ecosystems (industries, business functions, and organizational types). It’s similar to a position on the pitch in a football game, where certain players are born strikers, or central defenders, or goalkeepers. As in football, the challenge is to use everyone in a team to their best abilities and in ways that make the team effective — and once you know everyone’s TIPS profile, you can follow certain rules on how to best use each player and compose effective work teams.

    How to strengthen teamwork in an organization with TIPS?

    Teamwork is the combined action of a group of people, especially when effective or efficient. But how can we select the right players to make a business team effective and successful? And how can we develop the team as the business evolves? Here are eight recommendations on how to make everyone contribute to business success and align the players for effective and successful teamwork:

    1. Make everyone play in their natural position. Imagine you were a football coach and are lucky enough to have a world-class striker in your team. Where on the pitch would you position your star player? Would you play him in central defense so that he may work on his weaknesses? Or would you rather play him in offense where he has lots of opportunities to let his talent and natural strengths shine?

    Many companies and managers ask their staff to work on improving their weaknesses. I believe in the opposite strategy: Make everyone do those things that are naturally easy, effortless, enjoyable (remember the three Es) for them.

    For example, Ideators like myself like to drive change and create something new out of nothing. Promoters enjoy spreading the word and creating a buzz for a new idea, brand, or trend. Partners know all about their customers’ wants and needs because they deeply care for people.


    2. Use other profiles to fill in for your weaknesses.

    If everyone plays on their strengths, who takes care of those weaknesses that each of us has? The profile at the opposite end of your profile on the TIPS profiling map. 
For example, when working on an innovation case, Theorists enjoy rationally scrutinizing the evidence in a case, but tend to overlook taking into account the human factor. Positioned on the diagonal opposite end of the profile map, Partners have the most intimate customer knowledge and ensure that an innovation team considers the human factor is considered, too.

    3. Make the team composition fit its function. Depending on the main function that a business team performs, certain profiles tend to dominate and are more commonly found than others.

    For example, in an accounting department, most team members are likely to be Technocrats. In contrast, Partners and Promoters tend to prominently feature in a sales team. 
Similarly, certain profiles also tend to predominate certain industries. For example, when we look at different industries, the profile that is most common in a strategy consulting company is the Conceptualizers, while managers in retail companies are often Organizers.


    4. Balance a team with complementary profiles. Because certain profiles tend to dominate in a particular business function or industry, it is important to counterbalance the team with other profiles that support the majority and cover their weaknesses.

    For example, every sales team should have at least one Technocrat or Systematizer who makes sure that call reports are written, entries are accurately entered into an order system, and sales numbers are tracked and regularly discussed in a weekly sales pipeline meeting. Or to a consultant team full of big picture Conceptualizers on the road from client to client, add an Organizer to make sure that schedules are coordinated and kept, travel arrangements are booked and changed, and time sheets and expenditure sheets are filed in a timely way.

    5. Bridge gaps between opposites. In football, the midfielders act as connectors between defenders and strikers. In business, you may likewise use neighboring profiles to bridge a divide between teams that are operating on opposite frequencies.

    For example, many new innovation projects or marketing initiatives (driven by Ideators or Promoters) in banking nowadays get vetoed by officers in the compliance team (who are often Systematizers). Here, a Partner may act as ambassador to moderate the conflict between the sides by finding the lowest common denominator between the interest of the business side (bring in new revenues through innovation and new client acquisition) and compliance (mitigate legal risks, ensure compliance to regulatory requirements such as KYC (know your customer)).

    6. Balance complementing energies in a start-up venture. Most successful start-ups have a leadership team that balances three or even four different energies.

    For example, an ideal team for a tech start-up may comprise an inspiring Promoter as a CEO, a hands-on Organizer as a COO, a number-crunching Technocrat as a CFO, and a geeky Conceptualizer as a CTO. If the venture consists of a leadership triangle, a good combination may be an Ideator as CEO, a partner as Head of Sales, and a Systematizer as COO/CFO.


    7. Change the captain as your business moves into a new cycle phase. A venture moves through different corporate life cycle stages: first, creating a new product; launching and promoting the product; growing sales and customer relations; organizing the back-office to accommodate strong growth; creating stable systems and processes to consolidate the business; leveraging a business through modifications to product niches and adaptations to local markets; and finally, starting a new cycle through a new major product creation initiative.

    If you want to move to the next cycle phases, strengthen the profile that naturally drives this phase: Ideators in product creation, Promoters in launch, Partners for sales activities, Organizers to solidify the back-office, Systematizers to set-up efficient processes and systems, and Experimenters to twist and modify products.

    An alternative approach related to the quadrangular leadership team mentioned in the previous point, first have the CTO drive product development, then let the CEO lead the market introduction phase, then put the COO in charge to set-up the back office organization, and finally let the CFO drive the IPO and set-up of formal systems.


    8. Use All-Rounders to flexibly close gaps in the team. In almost every sports team, you find a few players that can play multiple positions in both offense and defense. While they might not be as good as the specialists, they do reliably well wherever you put them on the pitch.

    In TIPS, we call such players with a balanced set of skills and cognitive styles All-Rounders. Every business, and here in particular start-ups, do well of having one or a few All-Rounders in their team, as they feel home in any type of role and can easily fill gaps if your business grows rapidly or you face a period of staff turnover.

    Conclusion: “No individual can win a game by himself,” noted Pelé, the legendary Brazilian football star, three-time World Cup winner and world record holding scorer with 1,281 career goals. Often, the national team with the best teamwork wins the tournament, not the ones with one super star who everyone else follows. The famed US basketball player Michael Jordan put it this way: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” Composing an effective team in business is like forming a tournament-winning team in sport — and thanks to TIPS, it’s easy to create effective, focused and balanced teams for every function, industry and project in business.


    Have you become curious to find out more about your TIPS innovator profile? Or would you like to learn how to improve teamwork in your business in a TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop?  Contact us to learn more about our innovation training courses and find out how you may purchase a coupon for our TIPS online personality test.

  • How to make everyone contribute to innovation

    Many books and articles about famous innovation leaders focus on and celebrate one of three archetypes: the geek who first embraced a new technology; the progressive creator who came up with a game-changing idea for a new product; or the storyteller who charismatically leads and promotes a firm’s products. But what if you have a cognitive style that differs from these glamorous innovation archetypes? How can you play on your unique talents and strengths to contribute to the innovation efforts of your firm?

    Corporate innovation involves many other roles and tasks requiring innovators with very different cognitive styles. When we look at the domain of innovation from a wider viewpoint, we can notice many other perspectives beyond the archetypical technological, revolutionary or promotional frames of innovation. Today, let’s discuss how to make everyone contribute to corporate innovation by revealing their cognitive styles and innovator profiles with the help of TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method.

    Innovation requires more than just coming up with ideas

    One of the many learning activities we run in our TIPS workshops invites delegates to link typical tasks that an innovation team needs to perform while working on an innovation project to the TIPS innovator profiles. Allow me to play a variation of this exercise with you now:

    Suppose you had to select colleagues for an innovation team to work on a major innovation challenge of your company. Who in your team, business unit or company is the best person to:

    • do secondary research on the innovation case and check on perceived facts and assumptions?
    • give advice on new technologies and trends related to the challenge?
    • come up with bold ideas that push boundaries?
    • convincingly pitch a top idea to key idea supporters?
    • consult on customers’ needs, wants and dreams?
    • run an idea activation project and manage the project team?
    • critique an idea concept and tell you what’s wrong with it? review financial data or legal documents related to the innovation case?
    • explore anthropological or philosophical questions related to an innovation challenge?
    • roll up the sleeves and get hands-on in a rapid prototyping exercise?

    Do you have someone in mind for each activity?

    This little exercise can help us to understand that people a) differ in their cognitive preferences, talents and strengths, b) are good at and enjoy different work activities, and c) can add value and contribute to an innovation project in different roles and activities that are aligned to their preferred styles, talents and strengths.

    Going beyond the project-side of innovation, we can similarly notice many other innovation-related roles and work activities that require people with different cognitive styles, strengths and talents. Thanks to TIPS, we can now give each of those “innovator types” a profile name and specific roles or activity niches where they can shine with their unique cognitive styles and talents.

    Introducing how each innovator type can contribute to innovation

    Many of the celebrated innovation leaders mentioned above are Conceptualizers, Ideators or Promoters who often create new products and start new companies to market them. All situated at the Ideas-base in TIPS, these profiles are:

    • the first to pick up new trends and emerging technologies (geeky Conceptualizers such as Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg),
    • turn them into revolutionary new products (progressive Ideators such as Walt Disney, Thomas Edison or the older Steve Jobs), and
    • create a buzz for them in the market (enticing Promoters such as the young Steve Jobs or “ad man” David Ogilvy).

    These profiles cover three fundamental perspectives on innovation: strategic-technological (Conceptualizer), progressive-revolutionary (Ideators) and marketing-driven and promotional (Promoter).

    But how about the other TIPS profiles and their perspectives on innovation?

    • Partners (such as the hotel group founders J.W. Marriott or Conrad Hilton) take a customer-centered and social view on innovation. Being situated at the People base of TIPS (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems), they enjoy working on human-centered innovation projects because compared to all TIPS profiles, they are intimately familiar with their customers’ wants, needs and desires. Moreover, they like to get involved in and contribute to social innovation initiatives that aim to help the less fortunate in society.
    • Systematizers (such as the steel industrialists Andrew Carnegie or Lakshmi Mittal) approach innovation more from a systemic and procedural perspective. So, entrust a Systematizer with the tasks of setting up the formal innovation system in your company: organizing the innovation function; defining the processes of how the organization intends to pursue innovation; implementing an IT-driven idea and innovation management system; and specifying the metrics to track the firm’s innovation management performance. In an innovation project, call upon Systematizers in the critical Evaluation-stage towards the end of the process, when they can help an innovation team to “get real” and give feedback on what’s wrong with an idea or prototype.
    • Theorists (like the economist John Maynard Keynes or the young Elon Musk) look at innovation from a research-driven or scientific point of view. Operating from the Theories base, they create or transform base research or —nowadays more often— applied research findings into tangible know-how and technologies that Conceptualizers or Ideators can pick-up and transform into new innovations. In innovation projects, Theorists are valuable contributors in the initial Xploration stage, where they challenge an innovation team to critically check on the viability of facts, assumptions and beliefs related to the innovation project case.
    • Organizers (such as the Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher or Walmart founder Sam Walton) cover the operational and organizational aspects on innovation. They prefer to work on more hands-on, down-to-earth innovation initiatives that aim to continuously or incrementally improve the processes used to produce or deliver an innovation to the market. They also enjoy taking care of all organizational details related to innovation events or conferences so that everyone feels comfortable and well served.
    • Technocrats (such as the Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing or Microsoft co-founder Mark Allen) tend to approach innovation more from a quantitative or administrative point of view. They enjoy taking care of programmatic and financial calculations (e.g. calculating return on investment or market valuations) as well as legal aspects related to an innovation (reviewing legal documents to protect or administer a firm’s intellectual property rights).
    • Coaches (such as the psychologists Carl Gustav Jung or Abraham Maslow) represent the philosophical and psychological perspective on innovation (“Why do humans innovate, and who benefits really from it? How can the discipline innovation elevate the human lot and spirit?”). As Coaches are as rare in real life as unicorns (especially in the business world), let’s not go into detail here about how they precisely animate their noble intentions into tangible innovation contributions and move on to the next profile.
    • Experimenters take an iterative and experimental view on innovation. They passionately look for ways to either scale a viable product to allow for much deeper market penetration (represented by systematic Experimenters such as car maker Henry Ford or McDonald’s Ray Kroc), or to significantly upgrade an existing product by elevating its performance and design aesthetics (exemplified by imaginative Experimenters such as the inventor and entrepreneur James Dyson or Apple’s lead designer Jonathan Ive). In an innovation project, Experimenters are the first to roll up their sleeves for rapidly prototyping a promising idea concept in the Evaluation stage.

    What about the eleventh and final innovator profile in TIPS, the All-Rounder? As they cover all four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems), All-Rounders can flexibly contribute to innovation in many different roles and activities.

    Conclusion: William Shakespeare wrote: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances.” What’s true for life in general is as for the world of innovation: Everyone can play an important role in innovation and contribute to a firm’s innovation success — but better ensure that we do so in harmony with everyone’s natural talents, preferred cognitive style and innovator profile.

    Have you become curious to find out more about the TIPS innovator profiles of yourself and other players in your team? Contact a certified TIPS trainer to find out how you can take our TIPS online personality test.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018.

  • How to Deal Better with Conflicts at Work

    Picture all the people at work with whom you regularly come into contact. If you’re like most people, your colleagues fall into one of four categories: Cool, okay, at times irritating, or really annoying. Now, what if you had a tool to better understand the dynamics behind conflicts at work, learn ways to handle them, and discover why the people who trouble you most should be your best friends?

    Background: How TIPS links to conflict at work

    TIPS is a new cognitive profiling tool that I’ve created for my innovation company Thinkergy. The method uses four home bases (theories, ideas, people, systems) and four styles (thinking, working, interacting, and living) to profile people into 11 innovator types.

    I created TIPS to point individuals and companies towards how everyone can contribute to a firm’s innovation efforts. However, the method has also many business applications, such as: pointing people towards a career environment that suits their talents; composing and aligning effective work teams; managing people according to their preferred styles; and others.

    TIPS can also help explain why some people clash at work. Such conflicts are grounded in different fundamental value orientations and cognitive styles. TIPS’ four bases and four styles can help us understand the situational dynamics that trigger work conflicts.

    How TIPS helps understand the conflict dynamics at work

    Let’s explore the conflict dynamics at work between the four TIPS bases, and how they relate to each of the four TIPS styles. Visualize a grid containing two rows and two squares each. Clockwise from top left, they read T-I-P-S:

    • Your “cool” colleagues tend to belong to the same TIPS base, as they share your core values: theories, theses and truth at the T-base; ideas, inspiration and innovation at the I-base; people, partnership and party at the P-base; or systems, structure and status at the S-base. They also prefer the same styles of thinking, working, interacting and living. So when people are essentially alike, they tend to like and respect each other, and the conflict potential here is “no” to “very low”.
    • Your “okay” colleagues belong to the base that vertically connects to yours (T vs. S and I vs. P). They occasionally disagree with you because they prefer a different work style (brain vs. brawn), which influences what kind of work we enjoy and how we prefer to schedule a work day. “Brainy” T- and I-workers love to think their way through conceptual projects that they work on in longer time blocks of 3-4 hours. In contrast, “brawny” S and P-workers enjoy laboring through a To Do list full of short-term tasks scheduled in much shorter intervals of 15-30 minutes. In roughly one in four work situations (often related to scheduling meetings or agreeing on completion times), these work style differences lead to frictions with people who are otherwise “okay”.
    • Your “irritating” colleagues belong to the TIPS bases that are horizontally opposite of yours (T vs. I and S vs. P). Here, arguments occur because your preferred thinking styles differ (figure vs. fantasy). For example, T-people logically deduce the one right solution by following a sequential flow, while I-people synthesize many solutions by connecting the dots between concepts in a more freewheeling style. When looking at each other’s solution, T-thinkers say I-thinkers have no proof to substantiate their solution logically; I-thinkers counter that the scientific approach of the T-thinkers is too slow, linear, and narrow in possible solutions. Such cognitive differences between Figure and Fantasy thinkers lead to disputes in every other work situation.
    • Your “really annoying” colleagues belong to a home base that is diagonally across your own one (T vs. P and S vs. I). Here, we can expect clashes in ca. three out of four work situations, as both thinking and work styles differ. Moreover, they also differ from you in either preferred interaction style or lifestyle:
      • Because of substantial differences in interaction styles (fact vs. feeling), expect frequent annoyances or hurt feelings when T- and P-people cross paths. Why? T-people make a case and decide based on facts and hard evidence. They argue in a direct, logical and often blunt way that offends sensitive P-people, who consider the feelings of others and are more emotional. On the other hand, “touchy-feely” P-people may annoy more aloof T people by invading their space and —heaven help— even engaging in physical contact.
      • A second major conflict zone runs across the S- and I-bases, given the differences in preferred lifestyle (form vs. flow). Highly dynamic I-people love to take risks, drive change and shake things up. This infuriates S-people, who greatly dislike anyone upsetting the status quote by “rocking the boat”, proposing to “fix something that ain’t broke”, or even proposing a crazy idea of a revolutionary new product. S-people want to preserve the status quo and cherish trusted rituals and past traditions, while I people love to create a better future and radical progress. Because they prefer living in different worlds, S- and I-people are prone to clash often at work.

    In conclusion, we may sum up that the conflict potential between the TIPS bases in the following likelihoods: 0% within a base; 25% between bases on the same vertical axis; 50% between bases on the same horizontal axis; and 75% between bases who are vertically across. However, please note that in all cases, the conflict potential can rise by another 25% due to occasional “clashes of egos” or “cat fights” that may break out between two individuals for reasons other than differences in their core values or preferred cognitive styles.

    What can we do to moderate and mitigate conflicts at work?

    So, now that you know why you get along so well with some colleagues and regularly have issues with others, how can we use these insights to reduce, moderate and mitigate conflicts? Here are four tips:

    1. Differences divide, diversity enriches. Every TIPS base and profile has it’s value and place in business. Good work performance and harmony arise from finding the right mix of talents and styles at the right time.
    2. I’m okay, you’re okay, everyone is okay. Many conflicts at work aren’t personal, but rather related to different value orientations and variations in the preferred styles of thinking, working, interacting and living. Make an effort to appreciate other points of view. Follow Stephen Covey’s advice: “First seek to understand, then to be understood.”
    3. Find moderators to bridge conflicts. Colleagues who express both TIPS bases or styles in their profile can help moderating conflicts. For example, Conceptualizers are ideal to cool an intellectual dispute between a Theorist and an Ideator because of their thinking style (figure and fantasy). Or use a Coach (located on the diagonal axis connecting the T and P bases) to moderate a conflict between a Theorist and Partner.
    4. Opposites complement. Who are your “new best friends at work” — or who should they be? Those colleagues who most annoy you. Why? Because they are strong in all those areas where you are weak; because they enjoy doing those things that you dislike doing; and because they value those aspects of business that you prefer to ignore. They cover your shadow-side, just like you light up their shadow. You balance each other’s energy to provide a Yin-Yang harmony, and like night complements day, and female complements male, so your colleagues located opposite your position on the TIPS profiling map complement you.

    How does TIPS extend to all the profiles?

    So far, we have only discussed the conflict potential between the four TIPS bases. How does the conflict potential break down when we look at each of the 11 TIPS profiles?

    • For the four pure TIPS profiles (Theorist, Ideator, Partner and Systematizer), we simply can adopt the indicative conflict potential likelihoods mentioned before to see how well they get along with each. For example, I am an Ideator, and I have hardly any issues with other Ideators (0%), occasional issues with Partners (25%), regular arguments with Theorists (50%), and frequent clashes with Systematizers (75%). With regards to how a pure profile relates to the other profiles, we can estimate an indicative conflict potential based on the averages of the conflict potentials between two bases.
    • For the dual TIPS profiles, the biggest conflict potential (75%) is with the profile on the opposite end of the TIPS map: Technocrats vs. Promoters, Conceptualizers vs. Organizers, and Coaches vs. Experimenters. We can also predict the conflict likelihood with other profiles by considering the differences in style and values between each profile combination.
    • But what if you profile as an All-Rounder in TIPS? Well, All-Rounders feel home on all four TIPS bases, so they get along great with each other and well with everyone else (no issues with other All-Rounders, and 25% conflict potential with all other profiles).

    Would you like to learn more about TIPS? Are you interested in determining your personal TIPS innovator profile? Would you like to profile your team with our online personality test? Or maybe even learn about TIPS in an experiential 1-day training course, The TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop? Contact us and let us know more about your needs and how we may support you.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

    Acknowledgement: Robert “Alan” Black, Ph.D., a well-known US creativity coach for over four decades, was the person who brought to my attention how conflicts at work may relate to differences in people’s preferred cognitive styles. My estimates on the likelihoods of conflicts between certain bases and profiles align with Dr. Alan’s numbers, which he based on research findings in his Ph.D. thesis and observations in the field while facilitating workshops on creativity and his own cognitive profiling method (M.I.N.D. Design).


  • What Keywords Reveal About People’s Personality

    Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” If you want to find out more about people’s core beliefs and thoughts, pay close attention to the words they’re using regularly. Today, I’d like to tell you what these keywords can tell you about someone’s personality, and how you can use these insights for making better decisions when recruiting talent or selecting candidates for talent development.

    Cognitive profiling method in talent acquisition and development

    Nowadays, many companies use personality profiling methods —often long-established tools with well-known acronyms such as MBTI, DISC or HBTI— to learn about the preferred styles of employees, managers and prospective recruits. But what if a candidate intentionally cheats by ticking certain answer options that don’t reflect their true style, but promise to help them landing that job, or getting into that fancy talent development program?

    Enter TIPS and a solution to the personality test dilemma

    TIPS is a cognitive profiling tool that I’ve created for Thinkergy. TIPS stands for four base orientations (theories, ideas, people, systems) that reflect how social and economic change unfolds over time. The TIPS bases also capture basic value orientations, allowing us to check if people fudge their test answers. How?

    Imagine you’re applying for a talent development program focused on innovation. You’re keen to get into this company-sponsored program, because it allows you to learn more about this “hot” topic and to increase both your internal career chances and external employability. But deep down you don’t consider yourself a “creative” person.

    Now imagine being asked to do a cognitive profiling test as part of the selection process. The test questionnaire has certain answer options that allow you to assert how creative you are. What will you do?

    I don’t know about your response, but some candidates will intentionally tick the “wrong” answer options that favorably portray themselves as a creative type and increase their odds of being selected for the program.

    TIPS addresses this problem in two ways:

    • First, I designed the test so that someone who tries to “game” the result will either end up with a balanced All-Rounder profile in the middle of the TIPS profiling map, or get a test score that just edges into one of the other 10 TIPS profiles.
    • Second, if the latter happens, we pay attention to the words that such “borderline” candidates use in a final interview to find out if they really lean more towards one the other TIPS profiles or are rather All-Rounders.  

     

    The keywords to listen for in TIPS

    What are typical keywords that people with different TIPS profiles enjoy using? I recently jotted down a number of them while interviewing 50 applicants for an innovation talent development program (whom we had earlier tested for their TIPS profile). Let’s first get a flavor for the language favored by the four pure TIPS profiles (Theorist, Ideator, Partner, and Systematizer) who rest solely on one TIPS base: 

    • Sitting at the top left Theories-base of the TIPS Map, Theorists  emphasize their passion for the truth through expressions such as “honestly speaking”, “if I am honest”, or “to tell the truth”. They use “reason” and are “reasonable”, and consider the “facts” or “evidence”. They “confront” people who talk nonsense, take intellectual short-cuts, or are not up to a job. They enjoy “thinking” in a “logical” way and use their “knowledge” to build an “argument”. They “define” concepts and “problems” and “weigh pros and cons” involved in a case. Their favorite question particle is “why”.
    • At the bottom-right People-base, Partners are in many ways a flip side of Theorists. They “enjoy” using verbs like “feel”, “touch”, “share”, “help”, “follow” and “lead”. They talk about “teamwork” and “partnerships”. They “care” for “people” and their “team” and “leader”, and cherish a work place that feels like “home” and “family”. Adjectives such as “happy”, “human” and “emotional” predominate. They also enjoy talking about “sales” and “closing deals”. For a Partner, the most important question is “who”.
    • Floating at the Ideas base on the top-right, Ideators like to use creative action verbs like “create”, “innovate, “make it better” or “make it happen”. They love to talk about “change”, “ideas” and “opportunities”, and use adjectives like “dynamic”, “entrepreneurial” and “meaningful”. You’ll hear a lot of “new” phrases — “new ideas”, “new products”, “new services”, “new business”, “new concepts”. Ideators enjoy formulating a lot of “what”-questions.
    • Anchored at the Systems-base on the bottom left, Systematizers are “accurate”, “diligent” and “responsible”. They enjoy talking about the “system” and “processes” that they “implement” and “optimize”. They “manage” “performance”. They make sure that everyone is “compliant” and “follows the rules”. As the profile most concerned with the past, they often use words with the prefix “re-” (meaning either “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition, or “back” or “backward” to indicate withdrawal or backward motion): so, Systematizers “review”, “remove” and “renovate” where Ideators “view”, “move” and “innovate”. When Systematizers ask questions, they often start with “how” — including “how much” and “how many”.

    How about the keywords of the six dual TIPS profiles (Conceptualizer, Promoter, Organizer, Technocrat, Coach and Experimenter)? Because they locate between two bases, they tend to borrow a lot of the words from the neighboring two profiles at each base. However, each dual profile type also employs certain words that hint at their dual profile. Let’s look at some two sample profiles here:

    • Sitting in between the Theories  and Ideas bases on the top line of the TIPS map, Conceptualizerslove to “learn” about new “tools”, “methods” and “technologies” that they then “apply” or “teach”. They enjoy thinking “big” and focusing on the “big picture”. They enjoy asking “what”  or “why” questions.
    • Promoters connect Ideas with People (on the right side of the TIPS map). They are “lively” and “expressive”, “stylish” and “easy”-going. Promoters enjoy “life” and having “fun”, and love to “communicate” and “convince” people and to “present” in front of them. Promoters tend to ask a lot of questions starting with “what” or “who”.

    Conclusion: Your TIPS profile is hidden in your words — and so is mine and everybody else’s. The keywords that we frequently use in conversations reveal what we value and what makes us tick. So, first pay attention to your own keywords to get hints of your profile. Then, enjoy listening to the conversations of others to learn more about what makes them tick and what personality type they probably have.

    And what if you want to know for sure and do the TIPS online personality test for yourself or your team?  Contact us to find out how you can purchase a coupon for our online personality test.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 


  • Does your talent fit your work environment?

    Albert Einstein once said: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Sadly, many businesspeople are on career tracks where they feel like a fish being asked to climb trees. 

    I used to be one of those people earlier in my professional career, before I discovered which work environment best fits my innate talents. But how about you? Do you work in a “hot” work environment that supports your natural abilities? Or are you stuck in a “not” environment that does not allow you to flourish?

    Background: Hot or not? 

    In TIPS (theories, ideas, people, systems), Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method, my profile is that of an “extreme Ideator” — a colorful creative entrepreneurial business person who operates at the forefront of change. Twelve years ago I started Thinkergy, an innovation company that allows me to play on my TIPS home base “Ideas” and my dominant TIPS style of “flow”. Ever since, I’ve been in a “hot” environment that perfectly suits my preferred styles and natural talents.

    But that’s not how I started my professional career. For more than 15 years, I tried hard to make a career in banking, an industry I entered to fund my graduate and doctoral studies. I worked hard and did my best to fit in, but at heart I was not a banker. I preferred to think, work, interact, live and even dress differently than the typical banker.

    As I know now, the banking industry operates on the opposite TIPS base (Systems) and TIPS style (form) from mine. Big banks favor people who adhere to rules and formal protocols and don’t rock the boat. In many ways, I am just the opposite. I went from a career that increasingly felt DDD (dull, drudgery, de-energizing) to one that feels EEE (easy, effortless and enjoyable).

    Why is it important to align talent to a hot environment?

    From a macroeconomic point of view, it’s a giant waste of talent, money and energy invested in education if people lose years or even decades of productive work time in a career that isn’t their natural path.

    On a personal level, it’s a travesty to labor in a DDD job when you could make major meaningful contributions in an EEE career. Fortunately, knowing your TIPS profile can help you to align yourself with a “hot” environment.

    What do I mean by “work environment”? The concept can encompass (1) a business function such as marketing, sales or accounting; (2) an industry such as finance, fast-moving consumer goods or consulting; and/or (3) an organizational type such as a start-up, a government agency or a non-government organization (NGO).

    What are “hot” and “not” environments for different profiles?

    Each of the 11 TIPS profiles has a dominant style, which points you to work environments that suit your profile. While we can’t list all the combinations, here are some “hot fits”:

    • Theorists do well in “smart”, evidence-driven universities, think tanks and research institutions.
    • Ideators excel at starting new (technology) ventures or working on new product development, content creation or design projects.
    • Partners shine in people- and service-driven industries such as healthcare, hotels and gastronomy. They also feel at home in NGOs.
    • Systematizers do well in asset-driven, consolidating industries such as banking, oil and gas, steel or utilities.
    • Conceptualizers play out their brains best in industries such as consulting or software development.
    • Promoters show their creative communication talents in creative industries such as advertising, PR or entertainment.
    • Organizers ensure smooth operations in industries such as manufacturing, logistics or airlines, where it’s important to pay attention to small details.
    • Finally, Technocrats can best contribute with their thorough, accurate business minds in administrative, quantitative environments such as accounting and law firms, as well as in government agencies.

    Note that every profile has also a “not” work environment that suppresses your talents. You can find it diametrically opposite your profile on the TIPS Profiling Map.

    So what does this all mean to you?

    What can you do to check if you’re on a career track that is “hot” or “not”?

    • Take the TIPS online personality test to find out what’s your TIPS profile.
    • Check the section “hot or not” in your profiling report, and see if you’re currently working in environment that is “hot”, “okay” or “not” for you.
    • If come out as “hot” fit, smile and be happy that you’re aligned to an environment that suits your natural styles and talents.
    • If you find out that —as I did years ago— that you’re on the wrong track, check out the recommended “hot” work environments and ponder if one of the fields entices you.
    • But if you want to make a change, resist the temptation to do so right away. Instead, first acquire the know-how, skills and contacts needed to succeed in your new field (which should feel highly motivating and empowering to you). Then, once you’re sure that you can earn sufficient income in a new role in your “hot” work environment, take the plunge and enjoy the flight.

    To discover how TIPS, and its 20 applications for talent development, business and innovation, can benefit you and your organization, or to find a Certified TIPS Trainer, contact us today

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • Escaping the GIGO principle of innovation

    Last week, I began planning a comprehensive innovation project with a client. This project is of a high importance for this Multinational Corporation, which is seeking for new applications in new industries for a highly profitable product that is now locked into one industry and one application niche. The first challenge in this complex innovation project, I told the client, would be to understand —and escape— the GIGO principle of innovation.

    What is the GIGO principle?

    GIGO stands for “Garbage in, garbage out”. Originating from the domain of computer science and information technology, the GIGO principle describes the following fact:

    If you input unintended, even nonsensical, data (“garbage in”) to a computer (operated by logical processes), then it will unquestioningly produce undesired, often nonsensical, output (“garbage out”).

    In more than a decade of working on over 150 innovation projects, I’ve seen how GIGO also applies to the field of innovation in five dimensions: project, process, money, time, and people.

    The project dimension

    The project dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation goes as follows:

    If you input an unintended, even nonsensical, innovation case at the start of an innovation project (garbage in), then it will produce undesired, often nonsensical, ideas and innovation outputs (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the project side?

    • When you plan a new innovation project, ensure that it is relevant, realistic and meaningful for both your organization and key project stakeholders. Ask yourself: How to make key stakeholders rally behind this project? How to make participants feel eager to take part, and look forward to starting?
    • Identify the main innovation type you intend to pursue (e.g., process innovation, product innovation, service innovation, customer experience design, campaign design, business model innovation, or strategy innovation, among others).

    The process dimension

    On a meta-level, we can formulate the process dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation as follows:

    If you use an incomplete or dysfunctional innovation process for an innovation project (garbage in), then it will result in incomplete or substandard ideas and innovation results (garbage out).

    Moreover, every innovation process consists of different process stages, and employs thinking tools that innovation teams apply while working in a stage. As such, the process-related GIGO principle of innovation has a corollary on a stage-level:

    If you enter an insufficient quantity and/or poor quality of inputs into a process stage of a well-structured innovation method (garbage in), then it will produce too few, substandard outputs and results at the end of this stage (garbage out).

    The same holds true on the tool-level: Even the best, most carefully selected thinking tools will produce undesired, or even nonsensical, outputs (“garbage out”) if you input low-quality information (“garbage in”).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the process side?

    • Select and use an innovation process that is well-structured and complete, and that measures inputs and outputs on different levels (such as Thinkergy’s awards-winning X-IDEA method).
    • At the end of a process stage (or a thinking tool-exercise within a stage), make sure that you have outputs in a sufficient quantity and an adequate quality before you move on to the next stage (tool).

    The monetary dimension

    Going through an innovation project requires an adequate budget investment, which leads us to the monetary dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation:

    If you run an innovation project on a shoestring (garbage in), then your pennies will buy you only third-rate delivery partners with faulty innovation processes and limited experience, leading to suboptimal innovation results (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the monetary side?

    • Relate the budget to the relative importance of the innovation project (high, medium, low).
    • Hire external innovation professionals with effective process methods to facilitate projects of medium and especially high importance. Recall David Ogilvy’s advice: “Pay peanuts, get monkeys”.
    • Ensure you budget can also pay for a functional event space and for the logistics and travel costs related to the innovation events.
    • Quantify the potential financial benefits of the project, such as estimated revenue and/or profit margin growth. View your project budget in relation to these desired benefits to arrive at an adequate level. For example, a project budget of USD 100,000 seems like a lot, but when viewed in relative terms against expected project benefits (say, USD 50 mio), it translates into a tiny fraction (here 0.2%).

    The time dimension

    Good thinking leading to great innovations takes time. All too often, businesspeople underestimate the time needed to do an innovation project adequately (a phenomenon related to a cognitive bias known as planning fallacy). This leads us to the time dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation:

    If you provide inadequate time commitments to an innovation project and each of its stages; garbage in), then it will produce half-baked outputs and results (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the time side?

    • Relate the time commitment to the relative importance of the project (high, medium, low). Consider the following minimum number of innovation workshop days for each importance level: one event day (low), two to three days (medium), and four to five days (high).
    • For high importance cases, spread the innovation project out over a couple of months. Invest time upfront for a thorough immersion during an initial Xploration phase. It will pay dividends later on, ensuring that your innovation teams can address your real innovation challenge, which typically differs from the one you initially perceive to be your challenge.

    The people dimension

    The right number of the right people create great innovation to improve people’s lives. Last but not least, this notion is reflected in the people dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation:

    If an insufficient number of, or the wrong type of people work on an innovation project (or a particular process stage; garbage in), then they will produce too few or suboptimal ideas and innovation outputs (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the people side?

    • For innovation projects of medium or high importance, have more than one innovation team (comprising eight to 10 members) working on the project case in parallel.
    • Optimize the people side of innovation: Use cognitive profiling tools (such as Thinkergy’s people innovation profiling method TIPS) to invite people to each innovation process stage who have a natural talent for the type of thinking required in that stage. For example, when applying X-IDEA, I noted that conceptual thinkers do well in the initial Xploration stage; creative thinkers shine in the two creative stages Ideation and Development; critical thinkers help a team to get real in the Evaluation stage; and operational doers get things done in the Action-stage.
    • For highly important innovation projects, broaden viewpoints and the pool of ideas by inviting topic experts (e.g., scientists, futurists, trend scouts) and external collaborators (e.g., clients, suppliers, creative agency partners).

    Do you plan working on an important innovation project in 2017, too? Do you want to escape the GIGO principle of innovation? Contact us if you want to find out how we can guide you towards meaningful innovation results with our systematic innovation method X-IDEA.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • Understanding the cycles of change using TIPS (Part 2)


    In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the driving forces of change in societies by looking at four traditional roles that underpin most societies: a smart scholar or academic; a progressive merchant or entrepreneur; a collegial farmer or worker; and the rule-enforcing warrior or cop. We learned how these four traditional roles are associated with the four bases — Theories, Ideas, People, and Systems — of TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation people-profiling method. 

    Today, allow me give you more insights into how to ride the cycles of change in society and business by looking at the four TIPS bases through another lens: the concepts of evolutionary economics and long cycles of Joseph Schumpeter and Nikolai Kondratiev.

    A brief introduction to Schumpeter

    Roughly a hundred years ago, the Austrian economist Joseph A. Schumpeter proposed a radically new theory of macroeconomics. Inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution, evolutionary economics focuses on the non-equilibrium processes —especially technological and institutional innovations— that transform an economy from within and drive the cycles of change:

    • Most established industries are in a state of balance and relative stasis — the macroeconomic equilibrium that Schumpeter acknowledged as “the normal mode of economic affairs”, in which a few market leaders dominate the industry. According to Pareto theory (80/20 thinking), around 20% of companies in any industry make around 80% of revenues generated in that industry. Typically, two or three command the highest market shares, two or three follow at a distance, and a myriad of smaller players vie for the balance.
    • Over time, new research and new technologies surface. Progressive entrepreneurs and agile ventures operating at the fringes of an established market space recognize these as a business opportunity and pick them up. While the incumbents are preoccupied with “milking the cow”, making incremental improvements and fighting tactical battles for market share, entrepreneurs enter the market space with a truly innovative technology. As Schumpeter emphasized: “Innovations are changes which cannot be decomposed into infinitesimal steps.”
    • If the entrepreneurs succeed, their “disruptive technology” upsets the established order of economic life. They become the dominant players of a new market, and the incumbents fall behind.
    • Eventually, a once mighty outdated corporation or its flagship business gets acquired or is closed. Schumpeter called this process “creative destruction”, describing it as follows: “The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as U. S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation — if I may use that biological term — that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”
    • Radical shifts in lead technologies disrupt the traditional order of markets and societies, and instigate major social changes. As Schumpeter observed: “Capitalism inevitably and by virtue of the very logic of its civilization creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest.”
    • How does the story continue? Over time, a new equilibrium establishes itself in the new industry. The leaders of the now dominating new market eventually become part of the economic establishment and comfortably enjoy the returns of their disruptive innovation — until a new disruptive technology comes along. A new macroeconomic cycle has begun, giving birth to a new industry and a new round of creative destruction of the old.

    The long waves of economic change

    Schumpeter and the Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev both observed that major shifts in lead technologies happen in long cycles that flow in waves (known as Schumpeter-waves or Kondratiev-waves). What long cycles and related lead technologies can we distinguish?

    Water power, textiles and iron led the first wave (ca. 1785-1845), followed by steam, railway and steel (1845-1900). Electricity, chemicals and automobiles powered the third wave (1900-1950), followed by petrochemicals, aviation, and electronics in the fourth wave (1950-1990). The current fifth wave is driven by digital networks, software, and new media (1990-2020).

    What industries will dominate the next wave (2020-2045)? In his book The Sixth Wave, John Moody predicts that resources efficiency and clean technologies will be major drivers.

    By the way, have you noticed that the duration of the long waves seems to shorten? And so does the life span of corporations. The cycles of change are accelerating — or to put it in the words of Schumpeter: the incessant process of creative destruction is speeding up.

    Evolutionary economics, long cycles and TIPS

    Our innovation people profiling method TIPS distinguishes four bases that drive the behavior of individuals and organizations, industries or economies alike: Theories, Ideas, People and Systems. How do the evolutionary economic processes that drive the cycles of change relate to the four bases of TIPS?

    • An established industry resting in a macroeconomic equilibrium is Systems-driven. A few mighty corporations dominate the industry and focus on keeping control and defending their commanding market shares. Typically, they are too busy with themselves and their established peers to notice emerging trends on the horizon, thus facing the threat of creative destruction by a new disruptive technology.
    • Over time, the Theories base produces new base and applied research that crystallizes in new technologies, the catalyst of transformative change.
    • Entrepreneurs and agile ventures at the Ideas base are the first to recognize the market potential of an emerging technology. Thanks to their appetite for both progress and profit, they are willing to undertake both the risks related to investing in the new technology and the efforts to turn it into marketable products.
    • Finally, the People base is needed to make a new technology and a related products a market success. People become the consumers of the new technology, paying for it with money earned in an old industry or by switching to work in the new industry.

    Over time, the successful entrepreneurial venture grows through the People base and solidifies into a large corporation at the Systems base. A new macroeconomic equilibrium sets in that years later will be unsettled by the start of a new long cycle. And so flow the cycles of change, the incessant economic cycles of creation and creative destruction.

    Wanna learn more about our new innovation people profiling method TIPS? Take a look at this video — and contact us if you want to be informed of the launch of our new online profiling platform in a few weeks.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • What kind of innovator does your business need?

    In an earlier article titled Growing with the flow, I discussed that, like living things, companies develop by passing through distinct phases in their life cycle. What’s also true is that as a company develops from a startup to a multinational corporation, different basic innovator dimensions dominate at different stages of a company’s life. Let me explain.

    The four dimensions of innovators

    Over the past few years, I’ve been developing an innovation-focused personality profiling system, and am currently fine-tuning it for market release in the first quarter of 2014. This system that we call TIPS is based on the idea that your natural work style, thinking style, life style and innovation style depend on the mix of four basic dimensions that drive your mental focus and energy. These four dimensions are: THEORIES, IDEAS, PEOPLE, and SYSTEMS (which together make for the acronym TIPS).

    When assessed on their combinations of these fundamental orientations, people fall into 11 types: Theorists, Ideators, Partners, Systematizers, Conceptualizers, Promoters, Organizers, Technocrats, Coaches, Experimenters, and All-rounders. Each of these innovation styles can contribute to a company’s innovation efforts, but different innovation styles come to the forefront at different stages in the corporate life cycle.

    How different dimensions drive and affect a company during its life cycle

    Let’s follow the life of a company to better understand how the need for the various innovator types — and their profiles — changes as it goes from a tiny new venture to a mighty behemoth:

    Phase 1: Great companies start with great IDEAS
    The idea on which a business is founded may be to fill an unmet need. An example of this is YouTube, whose founders Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim noticed the lack of an easy way to share videos on the web. The idea might also be to exploit a new technology or method, as in the case of Polaroid, founded by Edwin H. Land. The more radical, game-changing, and bold the idea, the more risky it is, the more reward it offers, and the more it can change the world. Ideators, the idea creators, often create and lead start-ups through their initial phase.

    Phase 2: Spread the word about the IDEAS to PEOPLE
    The second phase of company growth calls on both the IDEAS and the PEOPLE dimensions. Once a new product has been developed, then it’s time to build a brand and promote both the product and the brand. Among the 11 innovator types, the Promoter is most naturally suited to create convincing campaigns and to spread the word to the market.

    Phase 3: Get PEOPLE for Sales and Delivery
    This third phase is all about PEOPLE. You need to find the right people to sell your brand and product, and ensure satisfactory delivery and customer care. Partners are the innovator type most needed at this stage of a company’s development.

    Phase 4: PEOPLE use SYSTEMS to tame the chaos
    Sooner or later, if your sales team is successful, you will have a new problem: your organization will have problems keeping up with growth and maintaining consistent quality in products, delivery and services. This phase involves mostly the PEOPLE and SYSTEMS dimensions, as management realizes the need for organization at the front end, as well as a need for a more sophisticated back-end organization to ensure consistent service quality and customer care. The Organizer is the innovator type best suited to bring both order and a focus on service to a fast-growing company.

    Phase 5: Build smooth-running SYSTEMS
    As a company matures into a large corporation, the SYSTEMS dimension gains added importance. Senior management focuses on efficiency and productivity. The Systematizer is the right kind of person needed to drive and direct the transformation of a company into an efficient, productive corporation that is self-sustaining and not dependent on any one individual.

    Phase 6: IDEAS improve the SYSTEMS
    Once well-oiled SYSTEMS have been put in place, they can be shaped to improve the company. In order to do this, IDEAS are needed, along with the willingness to experiment and tinker with things to find the right business model, delivery channels, and partnerships to multiply the firm’s value. The Experimenter is the innovator type best able to figure out how to make the company successful in different markets, countries or even industries.

    Phase 7: Reinvent yourself and start a new cycle — or decline and perish
    By this time, your once-tiny startup has become a mature multinational corporation. However, natural systems have another phase in their life cycle: decline and, finally, death. Sooner or later, a new technology, business idea, or venture will emerge which challenges your company’s existence. If your company cannot adapt, renovate or reinvent itself — often because everyone in the company ignores the world-changing events around them — your company will start to decline, and may even perish, the victim of Schumpeter’s “creative destruction”.

     

    What about THEORIES?

    If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that we’ve only mentioned the IDEAS, PEOPLE and SYSTEMS. Where do THEORIES come in? The answer is: Always.

    Theories and information inform your actions at every phase of the cycle. However, the focus of the theories shifts as the other dimensions come to the fore.

    • When IDEAS are most important, you need conceptual or creativity-related theories, such as basic research.
    • When PEOPLE are the focus, your firm needs marketing and human capital-related knowledge.
    • Building strong, flexible SYSTEMS requires a good theoretical grounding in operations, efficiency, and process.

    And those innovator types we haven’t mentioned yet —Theorists, Conceptualizers, Coaches, Technocrats, and All-Rounders? Their role is in creating, disseminating, and applying theories and information throughout all phases of the corporate life cycle.

     
    © Dr. Detlef Reis

  • Understanding the Cycles of Changes Using TIPS (part 1)

    Imagine a time machine brought you a few hundred years back in time to a feudal principality in the agricultural age. Upon your arrival, you’re randomly assigned to join one of three traditional social groups: farmers, clerics or warriors. You have to perform the duties associated with your newly assigned role. If you’re lucky, you feel a natural connection with your class, and perform well in your new role. But what if not? Today and in two weeks time, we’re going to explore the societal classes that preserve the traditional order and those that drive change — and how this struggle between stasis and progress perpetually drives the cycles of change in society and business.

    Introducing the traditional fabrics of society

    For centuries, the three social groups described in our imaginative scenario could be found in most countries:

    • The nobility was the first class. They owned and ruled the land. They paid for a standing force of loyal warriors who defended the lands against external enemies, kept the social order and collected taxes.
    • The noblemen also sponsored the second class: the clergy and scholars, who provided the nobles with knowledge and counsel, and also gave spiritual consolation to commoners to keep them docile.
    • Finally, commoners with many duties and hardly any rights formed the third class. These farmers and craftsmen did all of the menial work and paid taxes to the nobility in lieu of getting security.

    Together, these three groups formed a stable, traditional societal system. In every era, we can find similar social groups — for example, had you traveled back only a hundred years to the industrial age, you would see three similar groups: workers, academics, and policemen or soldiers.

    Fortunately, the feudal days are long gone, and the industrial age has ended, too. We have passed through the information age and are now entering the innovation economy. This raises an interesting question: What forces have led to the demise of each of the traditional societal models that dominated past centuries? Let’s answer that with the help of TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method.

    Introducing the four TIPS bases

    Most established personality profiling instruments exclusively use constructs to profile differences in people’s preferred cognitive styles. TIPS adds a new layer on top of these purely cognitive dimensions: the TIPS bases, which can capture both the dynamic, cyclical nature of business and social change, and people’s responses to these changes.

    TIPS distinguishes four bases: Theories, Ideas, People and Systems. We are all attracted to one or more of these fundamental base orientations. For example, the entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk plays exclusively on the ideas base with his bold new ventures, while investment legend Warren Buffet’s success rests equally on two bases: theories and systems.

    The three traditional social classes mentioned above relate to the three TIPS bases systems (the nobilities and their warrior class), theories (the clergy and scholars), and people (common farmers and workers). But what if you were forced to work in a role that does not align with your natural base?

    Introducing the driving force of change

    Let’s expand on our introductory scenario: Imagine you didn’t go back in time alone, but in a group that included Elon Musk and Warren Buffet, both of whom were randomly assigned to work as farmers. What a waste of talent, you may think. Now, while Warren Buffet may accept his fate, Elon Musk will be a troublemaker. Why is that?

    There is a fourth social group that complements the three traditional ones. Depending on the historical context, we may call this fourth group merchants, voyagers, capitalists, entrepreneurs, creators, inventors, or pioneers. Elon Musk is one of them. The rebellious people belonging to this fourth group love to shake up the traditional way of doing things. In TIPS, these progressives  associate with the fourth base, ideas.
    Ideas people have high energy levels, as if change and progress were programmed into their DNA:

    • They take up new research and technological progress created at the theories base, and use it to create bold ideas and progressive change in the form of new social ideas or new products and ventures.
    • They know how to convince some people from the traditional bases to provide funds for their new ventures, or even better, they have already succeeded before with an earlier venture so that they can fund themselves.
    • Finally, they know how to enchant the people base to join their work force and consume their buy their products, earning them with their labour.

    In short, people aligned to the ideas base recognize opportunities to transform emerging new technologies into innovative products that they then introduce to the markets. They drive the cycles of change.

    Interim conclusion and outlook: In our TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop, we bring the introductory scenario to life by enacting a game that allows people to experience what it means being assigned one’s right social role — or being stuck in the wrong one.

    So how about you? Do you play on a base that feels home for you? Do you see yourself as more of a smart intellectual, progressive entrepreneur, collegial worker, or rule-enforcing cop? Are you someone who stimulates, creates, enjoys or resists change? Come back in two weeks time, when I give you more insights into how to ride the cycles of change in society and business by looking at the four TIPS bases through another lens: the evolutionary macroeconomic concepts of Joseph Schumpeter.

    And if you’re curious to learn more about our new innovation people profiling method TIPS, then check out this video — and contact us if you want to be informed of the launch of our new online profiling platform in a few weeks from now.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 29 September 2016.

  • Creative Leaders and Innovation Managers: Same but different

    Do creative leaders and innovation managers perform the same innovation role? A few months ago, I had an interesting conversation related to this question with the global head of idea and innovation management of a tech multinational. When we talked about the responsibilities related to his role, my counterpart revealed to my surprise that he sometimes has to key in ideas into his organization’s idea management system. Now know that this particular innovation executive is a strategic big picture thinker who is ideally suited for creatively driving major innovation initiatives across his organization. Sweating the small stuff is a waste of his time and talent, if you ask me.

    Many organizations seem to interpret the role of the executive spearheading corporate innovation function as a “Mr. Know-it-all-do-it-all”. I believe that’s wrong, and how I believe we must make a distinction between the role of a creative leader and that of an innovation manager. Let me elaborate by discussing the responsibilities of each role and, with the help of my innovation-people profiling method TIPS, make a case for why these roles suit fundamentally different personality types.

    Creative leaders: driving innovation from the front

    Creative leaders run the “innovation front-office” of their organization:

    • They set or influence the innovation agenda by identifying new trends and technologies to focus on.
    • They spearhead or participate in innovation initiatives of business units or dedicated innovation teams, such as new product development or product design teams.
    • They participate in innovation events and conferences to promote innovation within and outside of the organization.

    Creative leaders inspire and drive innovation teams towards excellence to bring truly novel, original and meaningful ideas to life in the form of new products, new services, new solutions or new customer experiences. They look for new business models, strategic partnerships, networks and channel solutions to multiply revenue from innovation. Finally, they drive campaign, packaging and branding initiatives that magnify the innovation in the eyes of customers.

    Creative leaders ought to be at the very top of the executive structure, whether as CEO or chief innovation officer (CIO). This allows them to drive or at least influence the top management agenda, and to intervene and remove any internal barriers preventing innovation. Famous CEOs who exemplify the role of a creative leader are Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) or Jeffrey Immelt (General Electrics), among others.

    Innovation managers: driving innovation from the back

    Innovation managers run the “innovation back-office” of their organization. They take care of certain internal responsibilities related to innovation, such as:

    • organizing and administering the formal innovation management system (how innovation is organized and formalized within the organization);
    • managing the corporate innovation pipeline (top ideas earmarked for activation);
    • administering and maintaining an online idea submission and evaluation system;
    • organizing and coordinating innovation events and project initiatives;
    • developing and fine-tuning an innovation measurement system; and
    • measuring and controlling innovation performance and efficiency.

    The innovation manager heads a dedicated administrative innovation team that supports and directly reports to the creative leader. A good example representing the systematic, reliable mindset of an innovation manager is Tim Cook, who took care of Apple’s “back office” to support Steve Jobs before rising to CEO when the latter passed away.

    Why does the innovation function benefit from two separate lead roles?

    Thinkergy’s Innovation Profiling System TIPS (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) helps us to understand why it is beneficial to separate the two roles of a creative leader and an innovation manager: They draw upon diametrically opposite base energies, and should be staffed by different profiles:

    • Creative leaders are all about the TIPS base “Ideas”. Ideas people innately drive change, innovation and progress. They are strategic visionaries who enjoy focusing on boosting corporate performance, profitability and margins through innovations. TIPS profiles that naturally cater to this energy —and thus qualify to be a creative leader or be developed into a future one— are Ideators, Conceptualizers, Promoters and Imaginative Experimenters.
    • In contrast, innovation managers draw on the TIPS base “Systems”. Systems people enjoy managing, organizing, directing, coordinating and controlling internal activities. They take pleasure in setting-up and administering an innovation management system, including defining measures that allow them to check-on innovation performance and efficiency (How to increase our innovation outputs? How to more efficiently employ internal and external resources for innovation?). TIPS profiles that innately operate on Systems energy —and thus make dependable innovation managers— are Systematizers, Organizers, Technocrats, and Systematic Experimenters.

    But what if you insisted on keeping the two roles together? One compromise would be to staff the role of a “creative innovation manager” with a balanced Experimenter or an All-Rounder, both of whom can bridge the divide between the two polar energies “Ideas” and “Systems”. But, as with most compromises, you end up with a suboptimal result, because one person will be less effective than a real S-based innovation manager supporting a real I-based creative leader.

    Conclusion: Not either or, but both 

    Both creative leaders and innovation managers care for driving innovation in an organization. But they do it by different means and by focusing on different ends. Both roles support and complement each other by letting each person play to their strengths while compensating for the weaknesses of each others’ shadow-side. So, separate the two functions of the creative leader and the innovation manager of your organization. And consider using TIPS to find out how to out the right person in each role.

    Contact us if you want to learn more about how TIPS may help you getting the people side of innovation right in your organization — or if you’re curious to find out what’s your TIPS innovator profile. Our TIPS online personality test is going live soon.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 4 August 2016.

  • How do you prefer to think, work, interact and live? (Part 1)

    Wouldn’t it be great if you understood what made everyone on your team tick — including yourself? That's why we've created a people-oriented innovation profiling method that I call TIPS. It’s based on my observation that people orient themselves towards one or two of these four dimensions: Theories and knowledge (T); Ideas (I); People (P); and Systems and processes (S).

    The preferences you orient yourself toward determine which of 11 innovator types you match most closely. In addition to this, there are four other variables that describe your preferences, and which will help you understand thinking, working, interacting and lifestyles — both yours and those of your team and organization.

    Understanding what drives behaviors at work

    The four TIPS Preferences with their three different expressions represent fundamental differences in people’s thinking style, work style and lifestyle preferences based on their preferred TIPS preferences. The preferences are: Figure vs Fantasy; Brain vs Brawn; Fact vs Feeling; and last but not least, Form vs Flow.

    It is important to note that each preference comes in three expressions: e.g., the three expressions of the fourth preference “Figure vs Fantasy” are: (a) Figure, (b) Figure & Fantasy, (c) Fantasy. These different expressions signify the major differences of people’s preferred style of thinking, working, interacting and living.

    Moreover, the different preference expressions can also help to better understand and manage the conflict potential of people according to their TIPS Innovation Profile. We explain the essence of each preference in the following paragraphs.

    How do you prefer to think?

    The Nobel Prize-winning neuropsychologist Roger Sperry tested the functioning of each of the two hemispheres of the neo-cortex (the powerful “outer shell” of the human brain) independently of the other in split-brain patients.

    In his resulting split-brain theory, Sperry noted important differences between the two cognitive functioning of the two hemispheres: the left hemisphere is said to be more analytic, rational and logical in nature, while the right hemisphere is more creative, holistic and intuitive.

    According to their thinking preferences, people are categorized in one of three groups: those who prefer to engage in cognitive activities related to analytical thinking (such as rational reasoning, numerical calculations, analysis, among others); those who enjoy practicing creative thinking (such as using your imagination, creating ideas, or creating metaphors); and those who feel comfortable in both analytical and creative thinking (integrated whole-brain thinkers).

    In Thinkergy’s TIPS Innovation Profile, we capture this notion with a preference called Figure vs Fantasy, which tracks whether people are more left-brain or right-brain-directed thinkers. If you’re a leader or manager, this preference helps you to identify who in your team is an analytical “number cruncher” (Figure); who is a more creative “dreamer” (Fantasy); and who is an integrated whole-brain thinker (Figure & Fantasy).

    What is interesting to note that left brain-directed thinkers tend to follow a linear-sequential, step-by-step approach in their thinking and aim to produce a specific solution, while right brain-directed thinkers prefer following a heuristic, more radiant and holistic cognitive approach that is more vague and open-ended.

    Moreover, Figure persons tend to be more critical thinkers who look to find the underlying problem when confronted with a challenge, while Fantasy persons prefer to take a positive, optimistic look on everything and look for the hidden opportunity in every challenge.

    Questions: How about you? Do you prefer to predominantly engage in analytical thinking? Or do you enjoy creative thinking and know how to use your imagination? Or do you see yourself as an integrated whole-brain thinker who feels at home both approaches?

    How do you prefer to work?

    While working on his theory of psychological types, the famous Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung noticed that some people preferred to focus their attention on details, while others tended to have “their head in the clouds” and to focus on more abstract matters.

    The second TIPS preference, Brain vs Brawn, checks the see whether people prefer to work as abstract conceptual creators (Brain) or as practical doers (Brawn). Of course, as with our first preference, there are also people who don’t mind working both on the details and on more abstract concepts, and who excel at flexibly switching between the small and big pictures (Brain & Brawn).

    Brawniacs put their work focus more on operational matters and tend to focus on the small picture (or pictures), while brainiacs enjoy looking at the big picture and prefer to work more on strategic issues. The former get satisfaction from completing a task due to their pronounced orientation toward short-term results, while the latter get it from achieving a goal (typically more medium- to long-term in nature).

    What is interesting about this TIPS preference is that brawniacs like to manage and execute, while brainiacs prefer to make and create. This helps you to understand why in most mature organizations, the practical doers and not the abstract thinkers tend to rise to the top of the hierarchy. We discussed this phenomenon in two earlier articles (“The creator-manager dilemma” and “The brainiac-brawniac scheduling conflict“).

    A final point worth mentioning: most brawniacs pride themselves as being specialists and love to give lots of explanations about their work, while brainiacs tend to look at themselves as being generalists who prefer to ask many questions.

    Questions: Are you a person who stands firmly with both feet on the ground and likes to take care of the details? Do you prefer to work “up in the cloud” on more conceptual, abstract challenges? Or do you enjoy flexibly shifting between detail-orientation and conceptual work?

    In the next column, we will look at the other two TIPS preferences, which will help you to understand how you — and the people around you — prefer to interact with others and live in this world.

     

    © Dr. Detlef Reis