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When Imagination and Implementation Collide

Monday morning… a new week, fresh with possibility.

Rebecca was looking forward to the beginning of a new week with her schedule of meetings, work activities, and social events all carefully planned out. If everyone sticks to the agenda in this morning’s 9:00am status meeting, the week will be off to a running start. The meeting is jam-packed with a full agenda – accountability check-ins that had been set in a previous meeting, a major issue that needs a solution to help the team move forward, and action items to be doled out.

Nancy was on her way into work and feeling excited to share some new ideas with the team that she’d brainstormed over the weekend; one of which is a new productivity system that she thinks will really help the team improve efficiency and propel projects forward. And she’d thought of several other new ideas as well.

As the team gathered in the conference room, Nancy engaged a small side-group in conversation about the productivity tool and, once the meeting began, continued to share her thoughts with the broader team. Rebecca, concerned about time and all that needed to be done, thought, “This is going to be one of those meetings that gets derailed with ‘pie in the sky’ ideas”, and she saw a few others whose body language clearly echoed her thoughts. Did Nancy want the team to stop, change course, and get started on a new idea? They needed to get Nancy to focus on the project at-hand and get started on the agenda. Should Rebecca speak up or will someone else?

When Imagination and Implementation Collide

The Narrative Big Five Trait of Imagination is one of four sub-traits of the Openness category – openness is the degree to which an individual is a strategic innovator or a detailed implementer.

When we look at personality differences, and particularly in how we define those in the Narrative Big Five, Nancy is someone we would see landing on the far right of the scale where Rebecca or others on the team might land towards the middle or far left.

The Nancy’s of the world love to generate ideas and brainstorm; they are a veritable fountain of the new and the next. Yet, they often find it difficult to turn those visions into a reality and can get bored easily, leading them to jump from idea to idea.

The Rebecca’s of the world ,who land on the left end of the personality spectrum on this trait, enjoy getting the job done and take a practiced, methodical approach to execution. These far left folks may even resist brainstorming sessions, finding discomfort in radical ideas that don’t have a clear road map to execution.

Individuals that fall in the middle of the spectrum act as a fulcrum and possess the ability to translate new ideas into practical application and communicate those requirements in such a way that provides direction for implementation.

Based on the above example, an intersection of opposites arises as the far right and far left of the spectrum come together to accomplish a common goal. Without tools and solutions to help these individuals better understand and relate to each other, those points of tension could eventually escalate into a collision of competing priorities that has the potential to derail projects and stall progress. The implementors get frustrated with the idea generators that seem to constantly be chasing a new bright shiny object while they’re still trying to get the job done on the current project. While the idea generators may view the implementors as inflexible and lacking vision and creativity. What’s needed in this scenario is the people who fall in the middle of the spectrum, they’re the fulcrum that balances out both sides, translating the ideas of the dreamers into the practical and purposeful steps of execution.

It’s not always possible to have a team comprised of each type of personality on the spectrum. So how do we, in circumstances of opposites, find a solution to help these different personalities better communicate and leverage each other’s strengths to drive a positive outcome?

The Message for Everyone

Awareness is the first step in changing any situation. Understanding the different personality types and their facets helps us to better understand ourselves and others and helps us to strategize and leverage the strengths of each individual within the collective whole.

Awareness can help reduce the tension, allows everyone to take a deep breath, and provides the pause before moving toward action and resolution.

Appreciation is the next step in resolving tension and conflict. If Rebecca, and the team collectively, can understand and appreciate Nancy for her wealth of new ideas, they can learn to request and leverage her input when they’re looking for the next opportunity to tackle. Nancy must also practice appreciation and recognize that without Rebecca, and other implementors, her ideas and vision would never come to fruition.

Where do you fall on the Imagination spectrum?