Finding balance in your organization: differentiating between managers and innovators
Within the corporate world, leaders are often expected to be able to cope with whatever situation at hand. Depending on your organization’s course, sometimes you’re better off relying on ‘managers’ that do exactly what they’re expected to do: ensuring smooth sailing towards your day-to-day business objectives. Unforeseen circumstances, however, sometimes require a swift change of direction: time for the ‘innovators’ to stand up. While managers tend to protect and optimize the status quo, innovators tend to challenge it - which is exactly why you need both on your team to become an ambidextrous organization.
In today's dynamic world, organizations of all shapes and sizes are now more than ever subject to change. Ever-growing competition, exponential technological growth, and the velocity of communication are all factors that influence organizations globally on a daily basis. Whatever service or product you provide, it has never been more important to focus on innovation to keep track of a changing business environment. By far the most crucial role at play here is cut out for your very own people, stressing the need to optimize your manpower. Especially in leading roles, you need to ensure that every individual performs at peak level. At Talent Data Labs (TDL), we believe that it requires you to distinguish between two very different roles: 'managers' and 'innovators'. It’s often assumed that today's leaders are supposed to take on both, but that completely ignores the fact that these roles require two different sets of skills and characteristics to fully benefit from their capabilities. The organization of the future needs to be able to create the ideal division of roles between two different titles, yet share the same interest in their own way: making their optimal contribution to organizational growth.
Different role, different skills
Let’s zoom in on the question of why these so-called innovators differ that much from 'traditional' managers, and why you shouldn’t even be aiming for hiring people that pretend to deliver the full package. Your core organizational processes are purposefully designed for operational excellence and predictability. They are like high-speed train tracks with a well-defined destination point. Our management skills allow us to improve its performance to excellence, but without ever changing its route or destination. These are roles filled by achievers - skilled managers that we call ‘Executors’. Now imagine that someone invents a new vehicle that can take shorter routes, at twice the speed, using one-tenth of the energy per kilometer. The skillset needed to build, implement, operate, and manage this new endeavour is entirely different. Traditional management processes built for train tracks will not work, which is where here the role of innovators comes to play. The organizations that excel at innovation are those that are able to create an environment where innovation can foster and grow while leveraging its existing assets without disrupting the core business. Their processes are designed so that innovators and executors work in tandem. Behavioural science tells us that people are naturally predisposed towards one or the other, in different degrees. By measuring these profiles within an organization we are able to create processes that leverage people’s natural abilities (and capabilities) towards a successful ambidextrous organization.
Manager or innovator?
Now that we’ve established how two separate roles require people with different skill sets, we need to find out how to pinpoint the right individuals to take on these positions based on their personalities. That raises two questions. Firstly, how do you structurally map out something as abstract as personality? One of the most commonly used methods to break down an individual’s set of characteristics is called the Big Five Factor, consisting of five different traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (or emotional stability). With an assessment suite to measure these characteristics, it’s possible to generate extensive profiles of every individual by mapping out a structural overview of how their personality is made up. Once you’ve created this personality profile, a second question arises: how do I know who’s the right fit for a specific role? When we further taxonomize the Big Five into sub-characteristics, you will discover how specific traits make it possible to predict who is most likely to succeed.
With the right data, you too can change, and optimize your entire recruitment process to find the right fit for your organization. Rafael Lopes from Trimaran Ventures, a London-based consultancy firm, explains how TDL has helped him in his recruitment process to predict future performance for innovator roles. ‘TDL has helped me to determine when an individual is more prone to innovation, among many things. If you’re able to see who scores high on specific traits such as creativity, openness to change, and resilience, it also allows you to predict who is a more suitable candidate for an innovation role, compared to others. At the same time, it allows you to pinpoint candidates that score high on traits more linked to executive roles, such as structure and discipline, which are both linked to conscientiousness. I won't say one person wouldn’t be capable, but I do believe the other might just be more pre-naturally predisposed to fit an innovation role - and be more energized within that role leading to better results. The process offered by TDL has helped me scout the right people for their clients, in a very user-friendly way. All it takes is analyzing the right colour schemes linked to specific traits, and it helps us to predict the right fit for the right role very easily.’ Once you accept that there are many differences between two entirely different roles, all you need is to understand how they differ in terms of skills and characteristics. That raises one final question. Do you just accept the status quo of executors and innovators being different, or are you willing to make an actual difference yourself?