Everything Has a Personality

August 16, 2010  

While developing Personality Poker, one thing I discovered is that lots of things have personalities: People, Political Parties, Products, Places, and Organizations (I could not find a “p” for this last one).

When you look at everything through the lens of a personality, you begin to see why individuals gravitate towards (or away from) certain people, companies, political affiliations, products, and geographies.

Contrary to convention wisdom, opposites do not attract.  Human beings prefer to be surrounded by people who are “like” them.

Therefore, the desire for “sameness” creates homogeneous personalities in everything we see.

Saying that people have personalities is nothing new.  Personality typing has been around for over 2,000 years, since the days of Hippocrates.

But organizations also have personalities.  In some circles, this might be referred to as a company’s “culture.”   The personality of a company impacts the people they hire and the methods they use to motivate and retain employees.  People who don’t fit the mold, never join or eventually leave.  The result? More of the same.  Although highly creative individuals may thrive in a company with an innovation-driven personality, they will most likely whiter in one which is overly bottom-line, short-term focused.  If you want to change your company culture, a good first step is to distinguish its personality.

The same is true with political parties, which are basically organizations with common points of view.  The Republican party has a very different personality than the Democratic Party.  Because like attracts like, the beliefs associated with each party get cemented. It also makes it difficult to understand and appreciate the perspectives of opposing party beliefs.

Even products have personalities.  The personality of an Apple MacBook is quite different than that of a Window’s based PC.  And the people who buy each product is a reflection of the individual’s personality.  A person who drives a BMW is making a statement about their personality.  Someone driving a Ford F150 is saying something quite different.  Yes, sometimes we buy  a product for its features and functions.  But more often, we buy things because they are a reflection of our personality.  [Or maybe we buy a product based on what personality we want others to think we are, such as buying a Ferrari during a midlife crisis].

Places (cities, states, and countries) have personalities too.  Although both are in Texas, Austin has a very different personality than Dallas.  Austin is weird (proudly so) while Dallas is more conservative.  Due to the perceived differences in personality, the influx of new residents into each city helps cement their personality over time.  What’s the personality of your hometown?  Does it reflect who you are?  Are there cities where you would not live because the personality clashes?

Maybe everything has a personality.  In a class I am taking, I am supposed to ask people a number of questions about me.  One of them is, “If I were on the cover of a magazine, which one would it be? And what would be the title of the article?” Nearly everyone I spoke with gravitated towards business magazines, saying that Fast Company, Wired, or Entrepreneur were the right choices for me.  Most felt that Forbes or Fortune were too serious.  Clearly that says something about my personality, and the personalities of the magazine.

It is fun to look at everything through the lens of personality.  And when you remember that we naturally gravitate towards those (people, places, products, etc) with similar personalities, you will begin to see why we make the decisions we make.

From an organizational perspective, there is a greater opportunity.  If you are struggling to innovate, it might be because you do not have a wide range of personalities in your organizations.  Your company’s personality might be repelling potential and current employees.  As a result, you attract and retain only those who fit the personality.  This is the enemy of innovation.  But more on this in future blog entries…

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One Response to “Everything Has a Personality”

  1. Trudy Lloyd on August 19th, 2010 7:26 am

    Stephen, I too like to look at things through the ‘lens of personality.’

    I think it’s a useful tool in the innovation process because it helps people connect with their own emotions and subsequently connect with the emotional response they want a new product or new service to produce in consumers. This as opposed to looking through the lens of ‘product features’ that produces a more rational response.

    When it comes to organisations, It’s a courageous manager who recruits a ‘personality’ who is a bit different from the organisation’s core personality. However, along with the risk of recruiting such people comes the opportunity for greater creativity/new thinking.

    What do organisations want? Harmony or creativity…. can you have both?