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How to Recognize the 10 Types of Innovators

Insights on how people with different personalities and attributes each play a role to increase the rewards from innovation

Being good at innovation is a significant advantage. However, there are many aspects to developing the mindset and culture needed to create the spark and to make good on opportunities. Further, to be sustainable and good at innovation, it needs nurturing and recognition that different personas are required to –

A.  Find new paths of learning with the Anthropologist, the Experimenter, and the Cross-Pollinator.

B.  Organize for innovation with the Hurdler, the Collaborator, and the Director.

C.  Ask the Set Designer to help build your stage and bring on the Experience Architect, the Caregiver, and the   Storyteller to inspire and build confidence in the ability to Innovate for Impact.

Fundamentally Innovation isn’t just a sprint or doesn’t just turn an organization around, it’s a way of life that is exploratory to satisfy curiosity as well as rewarding and invigorating as you strive for what’s possible. And it works best when all 10 personas are on the same side to drive creativity through the whole organization and build a unique culture with growing innovation competencies based on “ Process and Predictability “ + “ Insight and Inspiration “. As well, it’s important to note these capabilities are fluid and not inherent personality traits that are permanently attached to only one member of the team – but rather are available to nearly anyone and people can switch roles, reflecting their multifaceted capabilities. Ultimately Innovation is a team sport where all the people are performing at the top of their game – to generate a positive force for change and improvement.

The Learning Personas

These outward-looking personas are important to meaningfully improve outcomes from innovation, mitigate the business from becoming complacent and stagnant, and to become a more entrepreneurial, agile, results oriented organization.

  1. The Anthropologist :  Curious about how humans interact emotionally and physically, Anthropologists are excellent at looking at problems in new ways and applying scientific methods to real life. They tend to be very open-minded, have deep empathy and intuition, notice small things others miss and often commit to memory innovative concepts which could be useful insights in the future and for solving problems. Anthropologists embrace human behaviour with all its surprises. They don’t judge, they observe. They empathize. In addition, talking to people with various backgrounds and different perspectives and getting them involved in your research can be a great way to get a fresh set of eyes that are more open to new ideas and opportunities.
  2. The Experimenter :  Careful risk-takers, Experimenters tend to love the process of testing and retesting potential scenarios to make ideas tangible. They aren’t put off by failures, they focus on recognizing the successes and building on them. Companies can support this process by creating an environment where it’s OK to fail.  Find ways to come up with a symbolic way of letting go of mistakes or celebrating learnings.
  3. The Cross-Pollinator :  These people often have a wide set of interests and are natural teachers with a love of learning – all great backgrounds which allow Cross-Pollinators to draw associations and connections between seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts to break new ground. Open-minded and not afraid to bring ideas and concepts from unrelated areas together, they are great at working around the constraints of their environment and providing a fresh vision. Ensuring you have a diverse workforce will instantly bring more viewpoints and experiences to the table to support this work.  To encourage this, have guest speakers and sessions to bring new ideas into the environment to promote fresh thinking.

The Organizing Personas

While recognizing resource constraints and budget guidelines, organizing personas work out where and when to prioritize and make great ideas a reality.

  1. The Hurdler :  They love solving new problems with the necessary tenacity and resilience to keep trying. Their positive determination help new ideas become the norm and can turn setbacks into successes. Hurdlers are good in a crisis and thrive on competition, since their drive plays a major part in significant new innovations and can turn an organization’s greatest challenge into its greatest success.  For this to occur, it’s important to have a culture of listening and not to take offence when the status quo is being challenged.
  2. The Collaborator :  Collaborators bring out the best in members of the team and make even the most private member open up.  This results in traditional boundaries being dissolved and the opportunities for team members to assume new roles are created. More of a coach than a boss, these personas ensure a team has the skills and confidence to complete their task successfully. They support and encourage collaboration by bringing people who rarely interact together for business and social events. Also consider the layout of the organization – can you move departments and occupy an open-plan space so there is more chance for interaction? If you have bigger teams, perhaps breaking them into smaller groups would give members a chance to exchange ideas.
  3. The Director :  These personas tend to stand back and see the bigger picture and how it fits into the organization. Good Directors have great insights and a contagious enthusiasm that brings out the best in people. A particularly important tool for a Director is the brainstorming session with a high energy level.  Make them special events with lots of bright Post-it Notes and markers, refreshments so people feel appreciated and want to contribute. Having objectives before the occasion provides focus and fast tracks getting into the subject matter.  And to recognize regular brainstorming sessions are as critical to an organization health as regular exercise is to personal health.

The Building Personas

These personas take the new knowledge from the learning roles and the application of the organization roles to make innovation happen.

  1. The Experience Architect :  This is the experience maker, who ensures that anyone interacting with the products and spaces of your business, either through digital or real life finds it gratifying (a great UX). These are the people who turn the ordinary into something special.  A good Experience Architect sets the stage for positive encounters with your organization through products, services, digital interactions – that stand out from the crowd versus “ being OK ” and a commodity, where price is the main differentiator.
  2. The Set Designer :  Your workspace is always at its most inspiring and motivational with the Set Designer around. They help ensure the environment stimulates creativity, encourages individual expression, and add dynamics to the environment.  With this, recognize the need to provide the set for innovation to take place with brainstorming and project rooms, thought-provoking art, as well as places for conversation and spontaneous interaction.
  3. The Storyteller :  These people are able to capture imaginations with their communication skills in various mediums: oral, video, written or animation. The Storyteller’s ability to anchor a message in authenticity means they can spark emotion, communicate values and objectives, foster collaboration and ultimately lead people and organizations into the future. Storytelling is a fundamentally human way of conveying information and facilitating understanding of the subject matter, new concepts, etc.
  4. The Caregiver Never has the human-centred experience been more important than now – which is why Caregivers and their innate empathy are important. They bring a certain comfort and intimacy, which encourages people to build relationships with others and your company. To put in perspective, while innovation can be demanding, how much does a smile cost ?


“ Innovating for Impact ” involves many things – including all these personas – to create the environment, build the culture, and have the mindset needed to be successful to identify and make good on opportunities when there are many unknowns and challenges along the way.

As well, these personas better position the organization to make innovation more rewarding through “ Process and Predictability ” + “ Insight and Inspiration ”.  This is critical to having more options to moving the organization forward with better look-ahead capabilities, more options to assess opportunities and risk, having the confidence “ to try ”, be objective and faster in determining when to pivot / scale / kill projects, etc.

Since these are significant benefits, if interested in learning more about meaningfully improving outcomes from innovation, please contact CAIL.

April 6, 2022     IDEO / CAIL Innovation commentary     905-940-9000