Have you ever tried to solve a problem only to go around in circles, jump the gun or be held back by perfectionism? What happens when you work with others who display any combination of these tendencies?
In anticipation of my first time at the Creative Problem Solving Institute (the world’s longest running creativity conference), I was invited to take the FourSight Thinking Profile Assessment. The Assessment, grounded in over 60 years of research, identifies which of the four thinking styles needed for successful innovation energize you most. My results were disclosed at a conference workshop that came to mark a turning point in my understanding of creativity and team work.
A Creative Project
Upon entering the workshop, I’m handed a graph with my individual results. I’m then assigned to a small team tasked with the same challenge as every other: build the tallest possible tower in the time allotted using only the stack of lime green paper at our tables and give it an original name. The timer starts and immediately so does the flow of ideas (and laughter) at our table.
We’re having a ball coming up with a million and one ways to build our tower. Everyone’s ideas are welcomed with enthusiasm, and we try out a few as they come up. In testing one of my ideas, I tear some of our limited building materials. Oops! It’s just become harder to meet the challenge’s structural integrity requirements. “No worries,” my teammates say. “If only I could work with people this flexible and understanding all the time,” I think.
Time is running out and we’ve yet to come to any consensus on construction technique or our respective roles. “Twenty seconds left!” the facilitator shouts, so we quickly cobble something together, using whatever method we were testing at that moment–an arrangement of stacked pyramidal shapes, as it happens.
Same Challenge, Different Experiences
When comes time to present our end product, the slightest current of air sends it crumbling down into a mass of nonsensically scattered green triangles. Laughter spreads as we shrug “Oh well!” “And what name have you given it?” asks the facilitator. We’d forgotten that part, but without missing a beat, my teammate pipes up: “Deconstructed Key-lime Pie” to the applause and amusement of the room. As the attention shifts to another table we exchange beaming smiles, still giddy from the rush of creation.
Let me tell you, things were very different at other tables. One team is proud of building their structure more quickly than all others. “Winning was the only option,” a representative says. Another explains that they didn’t make it far in their construction, having spent most of the allotted time analyzing the requirements, what could go wrong and how to avoid it.
Finally, the team behind us shares their marvellous feat of engineering: the tallest and soundest structure in the room. Their spokesperson gives a detailed account of how they first compared their knowledge of the laws of physics, an idea was proposed, they refined it, then silently worked as an assembly-line to make identical building blocks. Their “original” name? “Tower Made of Paper.”
Why such different experiences? Each team had a more pronounced preference for one of the four steps of the universal creative process. The same things made us light up (in our team: generating many possible approaches), and the same blind spot held us back (i.e. not knowing which one to chose and act on). While this made for a harmonious and fun experience, the end result was not as good as it could have been.
Understanding and Leveraging Diversity
In our lives and work, we may have an intuitive preference for working with teammates who approach things the same way we do and avoid those with whom we clash. By doing this, we limit our ability to access the breakthrough ideas that lead to valuable innovations. A tool like the FourSight Thinking Profile Assessment helps to identify the diversity of preferences and styles within and between teams. It helps team members to increase their self-awareness, better empathize with each other, and leverage one another’s go-to styles in the pursuit of shared objectives.
As of this summer, Intersol is pleased to offer your team the FourSight Thinking Profile Assessment and a customized participatory debrief workshop. Contact us for more details.
About the author:
Marika is a facilitator, trainer and consultant with the Intersol Group. She is passionate about helping people make the most of the changes and challenges in their lives and workplaces. She does this by enabling them to tap into their innate creativity and problem-solving skills, using human-centred techniques and effective communication –including the FourSight Thinking Profile.