Exploring the challenges of dreamers, doers and incrementalists.
The pursuit of creative projects surfaces 3 types of people, each with their own biases and challenges. Balancing teams around complementary strengths is key to sustainable productivity.
- Creative thinkers, great at generating ideas and unique solutions to problems
- Motivate peers toward the ‘big picture’, long term vision
- Often struggle with the discipline and drive required to execute on the daily tasks that progress an idea.
- Easily distracted by the next idea once the initial excitement fades.
- Organised and biased toward action
- Think systematically, breaking down ideas into tasks and executing on them relentlessly
- Able to critically assess an ideas feasibility, particularly with shorter term objectives
- Execution focus comes at the cost of constraints to creativity
- Able to cycle between dreaming and doing mindsets
- Bursts of creativity are followed by systematic prioritisation and execution
- Very effective when working on projects with rapid delivery cycles
- Likely to become frustrated if boxed into one role or the other
So how do we build teams around these traits?
Consider the chart below, which lays out the iterative swing between ideation and delivery on typical projects.
Dreamers are likely able to switch effectively between projects, each supported by an underlying team of Doers.
Doers can happily churn through task after task, alternating between projects to deliver on the new ideas put forward by the Dreamers.
The two clearly need each other and operating in cycles makes for a good rhythm among larger teams.
Incrementalists play both sides of the field but their autonomy finds its limits when projects run concurrently. The added dimension of switching between the dreaming/doing roles becomes increasingly chaotic as the number of projects increases.
Because of this they are often found in small teams like startups, fitting in well where vision must meet fast paced delivery under the steam of limited resources. In the enterprise the equivalent role might involve leading small but focussed teams of Doers responsible for innovating on a sub set of features within a larger product organisation.
Submerged in the daily grind its easy to forget that it’s people who imagine, design, code and deploy products. How they fit together matters.
This post was inspired, in part, by Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky.