There is a known principle often referred to as The Rule of Four present in nearly every human endeavor. For example, the New Testament tells essentially the same story from four different points of view. And most of us are familiar with the four characters in The Wizard of Oz—Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion, each representing a different human dimension.
The Rule of Four has documented philosophical and psychological roots thousands of years old. About 2,500 years ago, Greek physician Hippocrates talked about the four “humours.” Then philosopher Plato touted the four “faculties of the soul,” followed by Aristotle, who focused on the four “sources of happiness.” More modern psychologists picked up the train of thought: Erich Adickes spoke of four “worldviews;” Eduard Spränger mentioned four “value attitudes;” Carl Jung wrote of four “basic functions;” Isabel Briggs Myers identified four “types;” and David Keirsey described four “temperaments.”
There is little argument that humankind has four faces, each with unique strength. We all have some of each, but one defines our true sweetspot. That’s where our greatest ingenuity comes from. The question is: how do you leverage and combine those strengths in an organization to create a more innovative culture? There’s certainly no dearth of books and tools on the market to evaluate those strengths. But they are largely inaccessible, complicated, hard to use, with results that are difficult to interpret and capitalize on, in terms of building innovative capability.
Stephen M. Shapiro, former leader of Accenture’s process excellence practice and Chief Innovation Evangelist for InnoCentive, has just published Personality Poker: The Playing Card Tool for Driving High-Performance Teamwork and Innovation. It’s a uniquely designed package that comes with a full deck of personality playing cards.
Mr. Shapiro’s Personality Poker not only makes other personality instruments irrelevant in terms of being an everyday tool for the everyman, but he makes the whole process fun and simple. And I like fun and simple.
Big Idea: Building an organizational culture of innovation requires understanding not just one’s “strong suit,” but also how the four different personal styles of thinking and behaving can best be leveraged to solve problems and create value. As Mr. Shapiro maintains, “the person you like the least is the person you need the most...creative tension doesn’t come from a bunch of people saying ‘yes’ all the time—it comes from divergent points of view.” This echoes the words of General George S. Patton when he said, “If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking.”
Backstory: The inspiration for Personality Poker came to Mr. Shapiro while he was working as an advisor to a Formula One team (how extremely jealous am I you might ask), and crystallized for him in a Eureka! moment while playing blackjack in Las Vegas. He realized he could map the four basic phases of the innovation process (define the challenge, generate solutions, plan and execute, engage hearts and minds) and the four basic personality styles to the four suits in a deck of playing cards. Since then, Mr. Shapiro has successfully used the game with over 25,000 professionals in dozens of Fortune 500 companies. He also had Personality Poker validated by Michael Wiederman, a professor of psychology at Columbia University.
Key Takeaways: The Personality Poker deck is organized like any other deck of playing cards: by suit, color and number. The suit indicates innovation style, where you work best in the innovation process. The color—red or black—indicates your thinking style. And the number on the card indicates where and how you draw energy.
- If you delight in planning and taking action, you’re a “club.”
- If you revel in facts and data, you’re a “spade.”
- If you crave new ideas and experiences, you’re a “diamond.”
- If you feel more complete when you're around others, you’re a “heart.”
If your team is not “playing with a full deck,” they could:
- Solve the wrong problem (no spades)
- Generate ho-hum ideas (no diamonds)
- Execute poorly or not at all (no clubs)
- Fail to engage others in the ideas (no hearts)
Liked Most: I enjoyed the book, and Mr. Shapiro writes well, but the highlight is of course playing the game. Personality Poker is intended to be a one-hour game in which you collect and trade cards until you have a hand that best represents who you really are. Through the card exchange, you learn about others' personality and thinking strengths and weaknesses. You also learn through the card trading how others see you. In other words, through the simple card game, you get a three-dimensional view. A leader’s task of fielding a solid innovation team is greatly facilitated. I know of no other single and simple instrument that does all that in 60 minutes.
Best For: Everyone, really. You can even use Personality Poker with your family, like I did. It’s simple and revealing enough that you’ll likely end up nicknaming people based on one or more of their cards. I actually changed and improved how I help my third-grader with her homework. (Yes, a third-grader can play with a bit of help on bigger words and meanings.)
What Others Say: “I had the opportunity to apply Personality Poker during an off-site as part of a Team Building event. In a quick 60 minutes, I saw the team not only recognize styles they like the least, they identified how they can leverage those traits to help them the most!” -Michele Egger, Innovation Operations, Chevron
Rating: 9.5 (out of 10)
Matthew E. May is the author of The Shibumi Strategy: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change. He blogs at MatthewEMay.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @matthewemay.