Work with People You Don’t Like

April 9, 2012  

When asked by a Fortune 20 company to boil down Personality Poker into a 350 word article for their intranet, this is what I created…

We all have heard the expression, “opposites attract.” But in fact there is irrefutable scientific evidence that in relationships, opposites repel. We prefer to be around people who are similar to us. In business, this means that we tend to surround ourselves with people who think like we do. They have similar personality styles.

Although working with people who are like us improves efficiency, and makes relationships easier, this “commonality” destroys innovation. Innovation is based on different and divergent points of view coming together to create something new of value.

If you want innovation to flourish in your organization, you need to find those individuals who complement your style and address your innovation blindspots.

Look at the list of words below. Which set of words resonates with you the most and best describes you?

A: Intellectual, Knowledgeable, Philosophical, Logical, Realistic, Rational, Skeptical

B: Adventurous, Spontaneous, Flexible, Creative, Open Minded, Insightful, Curious

C: Goal-Oriented, Driven, Decisive, Competitive, Disciplined, Organized, Systematic

D: Diplomatic, Sociable, Gregarious, Popular, Nurturing, Empathetic, Compassionate

The list that best describes you is your primary personality style (and yes, people have more than one style). A’s tend to be a bit more data-driven and analytical, B’s like new ideas and experiences, C’s like to plan the work and work the plan, and D’s are into people and relationships.

However, who you are NOT is more important than who you are. Look at the lists of words again. Which words do NOT describe you? Which ones would be opposite of your style? What you may find is that those who are not like you, you may not like. Their differences can be annoying. Yet these differences are the very thing that can help innovation thrive.

The next time you are working on a complex problem or developing a new solution, seek out someone who is different. Appreciate their contribution. Recognize that the person you like the least, may be the person you need the most.  Their differences can be the key to unlocking your success.

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