High-Flying or Nose to the Ground: A Team Needs Both

Admit it.  Opposites attract.  In romance.  Interior design.  In the workplace?

Yes, says a new study.

"As an increasingly popular approach to business innovation, the crux of the approach embraces both creativity and analytical thinking to solve problems; two sides of the coin, both are essential to the design thinking process," newswise.com reports.

Or, in other words, most of us empathize with those who see the world through what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls a “fixed mindset” — many of whom may be corporate or bureaucratic managers — and vice versa. 

The fixed mindsetter (whom Dweck calls “George”) usually digs deeply into a specialty and masters the intricacies of it, while more creative types, who usually enjoy what Dweck calls a “growth mindset,” see life as a journey of discovery and, therefore, have developed a more diverse repertoire.

Her words.  But I get it.  There are those of us who see everything in black and white, and then others, who see only gray.  I'm one of those.

One's a risk-taker.  One's not.

It's kind of interesting because my husband has the same meal at the same restaurant every weekend when we go out.  That's how he likes it.  Our son, too.  Can't stand when plans change at the last minute.  I used to love a job where I flew all over the country because I got to see new things all the time.  Now it scares me to say I order the same meal on the same night at the same restaurant, too.

Anywho, Dweck, who calls the steady, serious mindset "George" and the more creative one, "Geoffrey," says the Geoffrey personality dominates in the What is and What if questions, and "George’s" natural home turf is in the back end, What wows and What works

If "George" withholds his natural skepticism until several of "Geoffrey’s" new ideas begin to be analyzed, he is crucial for not allowing "pie-in-the-sky ideas to overcome steely-eyed reality thinking," Dweck writes. 

Too often, she goes on, upper management can be easily awed by creative types and forget that the "Geoffreys" of the world, highly invested in their “brilliant” ideas, can become blind to any potential flaws. (Guess we know whose side she's on.)

Her point is that, while identifying promising ideas is Geoffrey’s turf; ensuring that the promise is real is George’s.  Together, this is a formidable team, she maintains.

Now when a George feels insecure during divergent “If anything were possible” thinking, he is still reassured he’s following a proven methodology and is placated by checking off another box in that methodology. 

Other times, when the team needs to coalesce around "assumption-testing," or even very early in the process when teams decide whether this kind of thinking is a solid approach for addressing its challenges, George’s attention to detail provides the foundation for Geoffrey’s creative thought.

Obviously, a team needs both.

Like all humans, we can face difficulty understanding others with different worldviews or mindsets. What seems simplicity itself to that Geoffrey personality might seem ridiculous to a George who may — because of his world view — rarely stick his hand up and chance being perceived as stupid. 
But here's where the unity comes in.  Geoffreys are often all but begging the Georges to expose flaws in their thinking — at the right time and place, which is after What if creativity and before the expenditure of major dollars and resources when an organization pilots any new future.
Here's the key to successful cooperation.  We must learn to truly empathize — different than sympathize or judge — with George. George is not stupid, or evil, or a “bean counter” who needs enlightened compassion, he’s rather essential to success because he helps Geoffrey recognize, and address, assumptions. He digs out the details that trip up even the best of ideas, and he does so after the ideas develop but while there is still time to solve those issues, not after Geoffrey has convinced the boss to turn over the checkbook — putting, of course, everyone’s necks on the line.


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