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Forbes Insights Study, Five Personalities Of Innovators: Innovation

Five personality types that foster innovation – which one are you?

By Michelle Hammond
Thursday, 05 April 2012

There are five major personalities crucial to fostering a healthy atmosphere of innovation within an organisation, according to a recent Forbes Insights study.


The study, which is based on a survey of 1245 executives in Europe, included a series of questions about the executives’ attitudes, beliefs, priorities and behaviours.


It also considered the external forces that can either help or hinder innovation. Based on its research, Forbes identified five key personality types that play a role in the innovation cycle.


According to Brenna Sniderman, Forbes senior director of research, the themes in the study are universal, which means the personalities “are applicable across oceans and cultures”.


“All play crucial roles in developing an idea, pushing it up the corporate channels, developing a strategy and overseeing execution and implementation,” Sniderman wrote.


Here are Forbes’ five personality types of innovation:


1. Movers and shakers


With a strong personal drive, these are the leaders. Targets and rewards motivate them strongly, but a major incentive is the idea of creating a legacy and wielding influence over others.


These are the ones who like being in front, driving projects forward, but – at the end of the day – they provide the push to get things done.


On the flipside, they can be a bit arrogant and impatient with teamwork.


2. Experimenters


Persistent and open to all new things, experimenters are perhaps the perfect combination for bringing a new idea through the various phases of development and execution.


They are perfectionists and tend to be workaholics, most likely because it takes an incredible amount of dedication, time and hard work to push through an idea that has not yet caught on.


They take deep pride in their achievements, but they also enjoy sharing their expertise with others. Because they are so persistent, they’re crucial to the innovation cycle.


Surprisingly, they are least likely to be chief executives or chief operating officers – just 14% and 15%, respectively, are experimenters.


3. Star pupils


Star pupils are good at developing their personal brand, seeking out and cultivating the right mentors, identifying colleagues’ best talents and putting them to their best use.


Somehow, they seem to be able to rise through the ranks and make things happen, even when corporate culture seems stacked against them. Unsurprisingly, chief executives tend to be star pupils.


However, they don’t seem to cluster in any one particular job function, industry or company size. Rather, they can grow and thrive anywhere. They are the stem cells of the business world.


4. Controllers


Uncomfortable with risk, controllers thrive on structure and shy away from more tenuous projects. They prefer to be in control of their domain and like to have everything in its place.


Controllers are more insular and like to focus on concrete, clear-cut objectives where they know exactly where they stand and can better control everything around them.


They comprise just 15% of executives and tend to cluster on both extremes of the spectrum – either in the largest enterprises or the smallest.


At the smallest firms, they may be the business owner who has built an entire company around their personality. Controllers pop up most frequently in sales and marketing, and finance.


5. Hangers-on


Hangers-on exist to bring everyone back down to earth and tether them to reality.


Like controllers, they don’t embrace unstructured environments, preferring to stick to conventional wisdom and tried-and-true processes over the new and untested.


While they comprise 23% of all executives, they gravitate towards roles such as chief financial officers and treasurers, where 38% are hangers-on.

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