Posted on October 14, 2010
I remember a project I worked on many years ago. I was leading a large team and had a very large budget. I chose John to co-lead with me because we got along so well. I am a creative, spontaneous, and enthusiastic person and John was pretty much the same. The team loved working with us. We were fun, engaging, and motivating.
And the project was a huge waste of money.
The problem was that John and I got caught up in the novelty of our work. We were too focused on developing new ideas and making sure people were happy. But we never got any work done. We were a total failure.
In hindsight, this failure probably could have been predicted. Our styles were too similar.
In fact, if you look at any group of people who effortlessly work well together, odds are the individuals share a lot in common with each other. They might have similar backgrounds, expertise, interests, or personalities. This is natural.
The reason? Contrary to conventional wisdom, opposites do not attract.
When it comes to interpersonal relationships, we are attracted to people who are like us. Psychologists have extensively documented the power of similarity when it comes to liking other people. In general, we tend to like those individuals the most who seem the most similar to us.
Therefore we surround ourselves with people who share similar thought processes, similar energy levels, and similar personalities.
But as I learned on that project many years ago, partnering with people who are too much like you can lead to disastrous results.
Contrast that experience with the project that immediately followed. Learning from that failure, I brought in a great planner, Ray, as my wingman on the team. I made sure I treated him as my equal. He was in my face on nearly a daily basis, forcing me to stay on plan and budget. I wanted to avoid the rigors of his planning as I felt that they were limiting and restrictive. But he was unrelenting.
In the end, although we may have annoyed each other, it was one of the most successful projects I’ve ever worked on. In fact, it was one of the most successful initiatives of the firm, one people still talk about nearly fifteen years later.
From this project, I learned something incredibly important:
“The person you like the least may be the person you need the most.”
Although Ray annoyed me on nearly a daily basis, it was because of his persistence that we were so successful. Left to my own devices, I would be chasing “bright shiny objects.” He forced me and the team to stay focused on the plans, deliverables, and timeframes. The combination of my creativity blended with his rigor was the key to success.
Although it is human nature to want to be around people who are like you, in order to be successful you need to partner with people are different. You need to surround yourself with people that complement your abilities and illuminate your blind-spots.
When you have a difficult problem to solve, instead of going to some someone who thinks like you, find someone who is your opposite. Yes, it is quite possible that that individual will annoy you and not give you the answer you secretly want. But that might be the very reason they have something powerful to contribute to you.
If you want to learn who can best contribute to YOUR success, check out our Personality Poker book and game.
Posted on October 13, 2010
This is the second in a series of videos about Personality Poker. Today I discuss the myth that opposites attract.
You can pre-order the book now. Each book comes with a deck of the specially designed poker cards.
Posted on September 3, 2010
Look at any group of people who effortlessly work well together. Odds are the individuals share a lot in common with each other. They might have similar backgrounds, expertise, interests, or personalities. This is natural. Contrary to conventional wisdom, opposites do not attract. We find it easier to work with people who are like us. As a result, teams that lack diversity are the norm.
In fact, there is plenty of scientific research suggesting that homogeneous teams do indeed perform better than more heterogeneous ones for “low difficulty” tasks – those with lower levels of ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity.
However, research also shows that in situations involving “high difficulty” tasks, heterogeneous groups consistently perform the best. Innovation is, by its very nature, fraught with uncertainty and complexity. It is obviously a high-difficulty task. Although homogeneous teams are more efficient, it is the uniformity of thinking on these types of teams that limits breakthrough ideas and reduces innovation. Ensuring a range of innovation styles should be the goal in constructing such groups in order to maximize team performance.
Unfortunately, diverse teams, left to their own devices, are rarely efficient. Differences of opinion, creative tension, and infighting will naturally emerge. Individuals who think differently do not naturally communicate well with each other. Therefore, it is important that innovation teams be given the tools to “play well together.”
Putting this together, we end up with three simple principles. And these are the three key principles of Personality Poker:
- People in your organization must “play to their strong suit.” That is, make sure that everyone understands how they contribute to and detract from the innovation process. This includes ensuring that you have the right people with the right leadership styles in your organization.
- As an organization, you need to “play with a full deck.” Embrace a wide range of innovation styles. Instead of hiring on competency and chemistry, also hire for a diversity of innovation styles. Every step of the innovation process must be addressed with people with the right innovation styles.
- “Deal out the work.” That is, you must divide and conquer. You can’t have everyone in your organization do everything. Instead, get them to divvy up the work based on which style is most effective at a given task. You can’t have everyone generating ideas, or focusing on planning.
Innovation is the life-blood of your organization. It is crucial for long-term growth. Without it, your business will almost certainly become irrelevant and commoditized. Unfortunately, although it is important, it is not always easy. However, applying these three simple principles can help you create high-performing innovation teams that consistently “beat the house.”
Posted on December 30, 2009
As many of you know, I am working on the manuscript for my next book. It is based on “Personality Poker,” a game that is primarily used to help organizations be more innovative. But everyone enjoys it because it is a fun card-based game that tells you all about your personality.
As part of my research for the book, I partnered with a professor in the psychology department of a well-known Cambridge, MA based Ivy League University (I’m sure you can guess who they are).
This university (ok, it’s Harvard) developed an approach for testing the implicit or unconscious mind. You can read about it a previous blog entry. This is fascinating stuff! Read the article if you have not done so.
I loved the Implicit Association Testing so much that I had them develop a Personality Poker version. There is nothing out there like it! Admittedly, it is not as much fun as the card-based version. You take it on your computer. And it takes A LOT of concentration. But it is an interesting process.
And for the holidays, for a very limited time, I am allowing people to take the current version of the test with 4 simple stipulations:
- You will not share the “experiment file” with anyone else. This is important because we are constantly refining the process to make it more accurate, simpler, and more insightful.
- You will take the entire test which lasts for about 30 minutes without interruption.
- You will send the “dat” file to me via email after taking the test. This will help us compare explicit and implicit beliefs. Your personal information is confidential.
- You agree not to sue me for damages if your head explodes after taking this test!
If you are interested in taking this test, please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org (please note it is a .net and not a .com). We will send you the link and the password. You will not be added to any lists.
Please let me know if you have any questions!
Happy New Year.
NOTE: I am told that the software will not work on a MAC unless you are running a Windows emulator such as Virtual PC, Bootcamp, or Parallels.
Posted on August 1, 2009
While working on Innovation Personality Poker® over the years, one question has lingered in my mind…
How do we know we are getting the most accurate picture of someone’s personality?
Personality Poker is based on a 75 year old psychological testing technique called a Q-sort.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, in a Q-sort, “a person is given a set of sentences, phrases, or words (usually presented individually on cards) and is asked to use them to describe himself (as he thinks he is or as he would like to be) or someone else.” In some variations, the cards are sorted from most like the individual to least like them.
If you read academic paper about Q-sorts, you will see that the question arises as to whether or not a self-assessment is accurate. Researchers question if other methods of personality testing are more accurate. They posit that there are three testing methods…
- Self-assessment (of the conscious mind)
- Assessment by a friend, family member, or colleague
- Assessment by an unbiased 3rd party who is expert in the Q-sort process
Which method is most effective? It appears that the answer is “all of the above.” All methods are accurate, depending on the situation.
However, there is a 4th method that is not listed above that may prove even more interesting.
Can our unconscious mind be a better predictor of our personality than our conscious mind?
There are very few methods available to answer this question. Fortunately I was introduced to people at Harvard University who developed a tool called “Implicit Association Testing (IAT).”
Harvard’s website gives a very simple introduction to the concept…
“It is well known that people don’t always ‘speak their minds’, and it is suspected that people don’t always ‘know their minds’. Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology. This web site presents a method that demonstrates the conscious-unconscious divergences much more convincingly than has been possible with previous methods.”
In short, these tests tell you if your conscious mind (i.e., explicit) is aligned with your unconscious mind (i.e., implicit).
We are about to start work with Harvard that will assess if the conscious mind (tested via the card-based version of Personality Poker) correlates with the results from the unconscious mind (tested via a specially designed Personality Poker IAT).
One of three scenarios will prove to be true:
- In most people, the conscious mind is perfectly aligned with the unconscious mind
- In most people, the conscious mind is not aligned with the unconscious mind
- Alignment between the conscious mind and unconscious mind varies from person to person
If scenario #1 proves to be true, then we will have proven the validity of the Personality Poker at both a conscious and unconscious level.
However, if scenarios #2 or #3 prove to be true, we have a new opportunity…to develop an online IAT-based Personality Poker game that we can make available to the public. In some respects, scenario #3 is most interesting, because it means that in some cases “explicit” personality testing (done via cards, questionnaires, and other diagnostics) is accurate. However in order to get a full picture of one’s personality, “implicit” testing is also required. Only through both types of testing can we get an accurate assessment of one’s total psyche.
In order to better understand Implicit Association Testing, I encourage you to take some of the tests on the Harvard IAT website. This may give you some interesting insights into your own personal biases…some of which you might not want to even admit to yourself.
Posted on May 18, 2009
After giving a presentation last week on Personality Poker to a client, one of the other speakers discussed social media and Twitter. The emcee for the event asked me to comment on which personality style uses Twitter.
My response was, “All of them. But WHY they Twitter and HOW they Twitter differs.”
We designed Personality Poker to focus on attributes rather than activities. The reason is that activities do not differentiate personality styles, motivations do.
Nearly everyone reads. You are reading this blog. Maybe you read books. Maybe you only read toothpaste tubes. It doesn’t matter what you read. The fact that you read is less interesting than WHY you read. This may give insight into your style. Do you read to learn as much as possible? If so, you might be an analytical “spade.” Experiential “diamonds” may read to escape. Competitive “clubs” may read to make them more successful. Emotional “hearts” may read romance novels (I’m joking about this one…maybe). Of course this is a broad generalization. In reality, we read for different reasons at different times.
HOW we do what we do also helps us understand our personality.
I am primarily a “high diamond.” That means I love new experiences. Travel is my favorite activity. I am thrilled to be returning to Copenhagen and Greece to speak next week. What is interesting is HOW I plan my travel. Although I knew about this trip for many months now, I just made my flight reservations an hour ago. I still haven’t booked my hotels. Spontaneity is a cornerstone of my personality (which admittedly is a strength and weakness). Many people travel. But HOW we travel may differ. For example, clubs (especially “low” clubs who are methodical), would have everything planned out well in advance.
So WHY we do things and HOW we do things are indicators of our style. Not what we do.
So back to Twitter.
If you were to assess who Twitters, I suspect you would find a good cross section of people. I know many who are competitive clubs and Twitter to help them be successful. The heart-oriented Twitters are more interested in the connection with other human beings. Spades may be more data gatherers. Diamonds may be using Twitter because it is new and cool.
I’m a diamond. I don’t Twitter to become more successful or grow my business (the club style), although that would be nice. I don’t Twitter to build relationships with people (the heart style), although that too would be nice. My motivations fall more into the spade (my secondary style) and diamond (my primary style). I spend more time reading tweets than writing them And I tend to read more about topics than people.
I use Tweetdeck. This software allows you to create columns with filters. For me, my first filter is the word “innovation.” Anyone who uses the word innovation in a tweet shows up in that column, even if I don’t follow them. The next column is Boston. I am interested in my community and the “cool things” going on (a very diamond attribute). The next column is Boston Innovation. Finally I get to my friends status updates, replies and direct messages. The other columns change over time and often feature a client’s name. Click the image above to see my Tweetdeck. And no, your eyes are not going bad. I blurred out the conversations…
Based on WHY I tweet and HOW I tweet, you might get a good sense of my personality style.
Based on the limited information provided in this article, I would love for you to answer the following 3 questions:
- What do you think is your primary style (analytical spades, creative/experiential diamonds, methodical/competitive clubs, people-oriented hearts?
- Why do you Twitter?
- How do you Twitter?
I plan on doing more formal studies on Twitter personality styles in the future.
P.S. I love this story…The other day I did a Personality Poker session with a client. Someone in the room came to me with their hand – a combination of hearts (lovers of people and relationships) and “high” clubs (lovers of action and competition). He laughed and said, “I love to play tennis. And I love to kick the butt of my opponent (a typical high club attribute). But afterward I feel bad for the person I beat (a heart attribute).”
Posted on May 14, 2009
How do you create products that sell themselves? That is what I will be speaking about at the National Speakers Association (NSA) national convention in Phoenix, AZ this summer.
As a way of promoting that event, I was interviewed by professional MC, Camille Valvo, for the “Voices of Experience.” This audio CD is sent to all members of the National Speakers Association.
Although this 8 minute interview (which you can listen to below) is targeted at professional speakers, the concepts apply to anyone in any industry. After discussing the innovation bell curve and its relevance to the speaking business, I talk about how to create…
What is interesting is that these two products were created “by accident.”
Personality Poker® was originally developed as an innovation tool for me to use with my corporate clients and in my keynote speeches. Inevitably, participants at my events would ask where they could buy the poker cards and the accompanying instruction manual. Instruction manual? I never planned to write one because I never planned to sell the cards. However, I decided to give my customers what they wanted. The first version of the instruction manual was pretty rough but was available within a month. The current version took quite a bit longer. The next version will be available September 2010, but more on that another time.
“The Little Book of BIG Innovation Ideas” was originally conceived as pamphlet. It was going to be 25 tips condensed into a booklet small enough to fit in a jacket’s breast pocket. Each tip would be 3 sentences long. What I discovered was that I had a difficult time choosing only 25 tips. And I had a more difficult time limiting each tip to just a paragraph. The result would have been trite sound bites. But I liked the idea of cataloging my 20+ years of experience into a series of tips. So during my spare time, I continued to write my thoughts in a Word document. I eventually pulled together 75 tips, each between one and two pages in length. I never expected to turn the Word document into a salable product. But my clients loved the content and wanted to buy copies for the attendees of their events. So, once again, I decided to listen to my customers and to give them what they wanted. Interestingly, the current book cover was designed by one of my clients.
In just 9 months I have gone through 1,500 decks of poker cards (enough for 12,000 people), and over the past 18 months I have sold thousands of copies of the “Little Book.” Not bad for two accidental products.
The interview is not a sales pitch. We do not focus on the products, but rather the thought process I went through in developing them. The purpose is to help people think differently about their products…and to help promote the NSA convention.
Stream the interview…[audio:shapiroproducts.mp3]
Download the mp3 (right click and “save target as” to download to your computer)
Posted on April 30, 2009
People who play Personality Poker tell me that they love its simplicity. But what they find most amazing is how this simple “game” can generate profound insights.
During a recent event, one participant commented that she learned more about herself and her team in 15 minutes than she had in her previous 15 years.
In today’s age of data-driven analysis, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that more data and more complexity lead to better results.
This is not always true.
I was chatting with Michael Wiederman, Professor of Psychology at Columbia College, this morning. Michael did a fascinating podcast with me a while back. Be sure to check it out.
When discussing the simplicity of Personality Poker, he responded:
“Simpler is good, as long as it’s valid/useful. As an analogy, I recall a published study from several years ago in which a battery of all of the widely-used depression inventories were administered to the same group of people, along with some other questions. The best predictor of who was depressed? The single question: ‘Are you depressed?’ So much for complexity.”
Common Innovation Myths
Where else do we fall prey to the belief that bigger is better?
- More Ideas = Better Ideas. Although free thinking is useful during the generation of creative ideas, if you are solving the wrong problem, all the ideas in the world won’t make a difference.
- More Data = Better Customer Insights. Data mining is the rage. Unfortunately it only allows you to study your customers. Quite often the greatest insights come from those who are not your customers — or those who were and no longer are.
- More Goals = Better Results. Goals are useful in moderation. However, an obsession with outcomes often results in taking your eye off the present. The result is worse performance. Read my article on “The Performance Paradox” for more.
As mentioned in a previous blog entry, I am a big believer that “Simplification is Innovation.” Don’t confuse complexity with quality. The greatest ideas are often the simplest.
P.S. I am reading Made to Stick…finally. It is an excellent book on the stickiness of ideas. Once again, we see that often the simplest ideas are the ones that stick best.
Posted on November 19, 2008
If you own the Innovation Personality Poker system, here’s an interesting game to play. It’s called “Shadow Poker.” It was suggested by my colleague Jason Bates over at Executive Rockstar.
Shadow Poker is the same as regular Personality Poker, except with one small difference: the goal is to choose personality traits that describe the people you don’t like. All players choose the five cards that best describe the people who get on their nerves.
This version is based on Carl Jung’s “shadow” work. The theory is that people have an irrational dislike of others who demonstrate characteristics that they most dislike in themselves
This game works best when all of the players do not know that this is based on shadow theory, because then everyone will be thinking of others and not themselves. Revealing this “projection” motif at the end of the game can prove quite insightful. Jung suggested that everyone eventually has to come to terms with this shadow self.
Shadow Poker is just one of the many variations included in out new and improved 80 page instruction manual. Order your Innovation Personality Poker Starter Kit today.