Striking balance with competing talents key to driving innovation

Good leadership vital to harness diverse opinions for creative disruptive to work

Mastering creative disruption in business is about leveraging the differences between different personality types in teams to find a blend that works.

An inexact science at best, it is key nonetheless to driving innovation in business.

That's the view of Trish Gorman, a former Dean of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a former academic director of the Global Consulting Practicum at the Wharton Graduate School of Business, whose industry expertise has been applied in healthcare, education, energy, professional services, banking/insurance and manufacturing sectors around the globe. She says good leadership was needed to harness diverse – and sometimes contrary – opinions for creative disruptive to function.

“It’s important to recognise the value of diversity. The best collaborations are done when you fill out the spectrum, exploiting different people’s distinctive competencies. You don’t want average here and in this case the middle ground is a dangerous place,” she says.


The personality types that you should have in your team could range from pessimists to optimists, conservatives to adrenalin junkies and from big picture strategists to detail obsessives.

These are hard-wired traits and it is important to recognise this and see the motivations behind these individuals that can range from desires such as self-expression, security, wanting to belong or simply desiring money.

Four common personality types can generally be seen, she says.

Provocateurs and critics The first group are those that are highly motivated to act, have a big picture perspective and are risk tolerant.

The second group have a low motivation to act, are provocateurs and critics and ask the hard questions such as “rather than whether the glass is half empty or half full they will want to know why the liquid is in a glass”, says Gorman.

A third group are kickstarters who focus on very specific areas of activity, while the final group are tenacious problem solvers who demonstrate vision and passion.

Speaking to The Irish Times after delivering the keynote address at last week’s InterTradeIreland’s All-Island Innovation Conference at UCD, Gorman said that a rule of thumb was that disruption should be taking place 30 per cent of the time.

The remaining 70 per cent of the time is spent in “directional” mode with a bias towards the status quo.

“You should unleash disruption selectively and situationally,” she says, adding: “Imitating the disruptive behaviour of others is not always a good recipe and may not have the desired effect.”

One of the classic signs of when to unleash disruption, she says, is when you see your employees leaving to go to rival firms, while other signals include when customer loyalty is falling and when technology is changing faster than your firm is.

There are also times when disruption should be avoided, she says, and these include when a board has just approved a new investment plan, during a corporate crisis or when the number of new ideas greatly exceeds the available resources at a firm.

“To effectively harness the innovation potential of your teams, you cannot just rely on creativity and determination. Disrupting the status quo is a very different process than providing direction towards existing goals.

“You need to send clear signals whenever you are seeking higher-risk proposals to assure your team that the hurdle rates, timetables, and revenue expectations will not be the same as the guidelines you apply to more routine expansion projects or product extensions.”

She advises companies to “put processes in place to help their organisation learn from the inevitable failures that accompany disruptive innovation.

‘Career tracks’ “I’ve seen many organisations where people aren’t eager to share their great ideas because they believe that risky new ideas slow or stall a career, while playing it safe gets promoted. High-performing firms often provide a path for non-traditional career tracks.”

Failure, however, is a cultural issue in organisations and countries with not everyone viewing it as a badge of honour or a learning experience.

"In Korea, failure is death," she notes, having spent time there working for Samsung.

A frequent visitor to Europe, who has been in Ireland several times before, Gorman says that it was something of a myth, however, that the United States had a high tolerance level for failure over what prevails here.

"Maybe that's the case in Silicon Valley, but that's about it," she concedes. Successful innovation: Ten key barriers Too many ideas without follow through Too much attention to detail killing creativity Great technology but no applications

Too expensive to produce new product Great applications but no customers

Risks difficult to quantify

Incumbents too strong

No clear “next steps”

No distribution channels

Not scalable