Just as our gender or country of origin or religion colors the way we see ourselves in the world, our primary strengths color the way we approach innovation and creativity.  In interviewing people from the four strengths domains of Strategic Thinking, Executing, Influencing, and Relationship Building, significant patterns emerged clearly.

For those whose primary domain is relationship building, innovation is one more reason to bring people together and that’s where they start – with people.  They say things like, “Who can I bring together to see what we can create?”  This, for many, is their first act when called upon to create a new solution.  One person said, “I don’t do anything alone.  I always reach out to my community first to see who wants to play.”  The advantages of having a relationship builder on your innovation team is that they can tap their network quickly to bring ideas and collaborators into the process.  They are happy to co-create and share the credit for a successful project.

Those whose primary domain is influencing also consider other people as a valuable resource for innovation.  Their difference in language revealed a lot about why they’re called influencers.  They talked about igniting a movement, being a catalyst for significant change, inspiring a new solution.  They use their powers of persuasion to coalesce a group vision and establish momentum.  Part of their value on a team tasked with innovation is in getting buy in and commitment from a broader group.  They lead visibly.

On the task-based side of the strengths equation are the strategic thinkers and executors.  Every team benefits from having these people onboard, for they provide structure and accountability for a way forward and measuring results.  Here’s what the innovation process sounds like from the perspective of someone whose primary domain is strategic thinking:

  • “What is our blueprint for success?”
  • “What is our high-level why?”
  • “How will this new innovation change our company or affect our customers?”
  • “Where are we now and where are we headed and why?”

They often begin the creative process with a diagram or mind map.  Research can be a big part of their process.  They might look for what’s being done in similar arenas and use that as a starting framework.  Some of the benefits they bring to an innovative team are seeing all the pieces and how they fit together, creating a map, and structure for moving ahead in a timely way.

Then, we have the executing domain, which helps the group stay focused on measurable outcomes and milestones.  They have a way of cutting through all the dialog and establishing tangible outcomes.  They will ask questions like, “Who’s going to own this part of the plan?”  Or, “What is our timeline for this step?”  Or, “What resources do we have access to?”  In short, they help ensure the team applies action to the ideas.  Without them, teams can get bogged down in endless theories.

Each strength or strength domain can also be triggered by other team members’ responses.  For example, those high in execution strengths find long deliberation exasperating.  Several influencers reported the most frustrating aspect of innovation for them was when others were entrenched in old solutions and could not be moved to experiment.  Those strong in ideation got frustrated by those high in input who wanted to replicate rather than innovate.

Here’s my take away: every voice is important to the whole.  As we understand strength’s intelligence and create balanced teams who value diverse perspectives, our journey and our innovations are richer, more expansive than we would otherwise experience.

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