How To Spark Innovation And Creativity In The Workplace

Marcus Buckingham has published several books and an app to help people hone their key strengths. What can you learn?
Strategic Facilitation & Ideation,
October 20, 2011

For over a decade, Marcus Buckingham has been on a quest to help you hone in on your key strengths in an effort to boost your performance in whatever realm you function. It started with an assessment tool called Strengthsfinder, developed while Buckingham was at Gallup. It continued with bestselling books First, Break All The Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths, followed by a string of others all focused on our insatiable appetite for self-discovery and self-assessment.

The difficulty with Strengthsfinder (and its next iteration, Strengthsfinder 2.0), as Buckingham points out in his new book featuring a new assessment instrument—both called Standout—is that you could "game" the test to produce a desired result, or at least skew the results because of the self-reported, self-rated, self-described nature of the questions. Standout takes a different approach: You react to a hypothetical situation.

For example, instead of answering a question like Are you a teacher or a coach? you're faced with a question like this: A new teammate comes to you excited about a new idea he has for the team. What do you do?Then, before you have time to really think, you're given these four choices:

A. Run the idea by the rest of the team to see what they think.
B. Challenge the thinking to test whether the idea's a good one.
C. Highlight what's great about the idea and help the person build on it.
D. Try it out and see if it works.

"Any one of these could be defended as a sensible thing to do," says Buckingham. "It is irrelevant whether you know yourself or not, or whether you are trying to skew the test toward a certain result, or even whether you think to yourself that you wouldn't pick any of the four responses. You'll simply see the scenario, read the responses, and then, guided by your conscious mind or your unconscious triggers, you'll make your choice."

Your reactions are assessed and combined in a new "black box" research methodology to reveal your top two "Strength Roles," or areas of comparative advantage. In other words, Standout goes beyond description to give people practical performance strategies that fit their strengths and provide managers with quick insights on how to get the best from each member of their team.

As the theory goes, these two Roles "are where you will make your greatest contribution. They are your edge—where you will have a natural advantage over everyone else. And they are your multiplier—where you will most quickly learn and improve upon any innovations, techniques, or best practices that complement these two Roles."

So what are the range of Roles? Thankfully, there are only nine (versus the original Strengthsfinder's thirty-four).

Advisor: You are a practical, concrete thinker who is at your most powerful when reacting to and solving other people’s problems.

Connector: You are a catalyst. Your power lies in your craving to bring two people or ideas together to make something bigger and better than it is now.

Creator: You make sense of the world—pulling it apart, seeing a better configuration, and creating it.

Equalizer: You are a levelheaded person whose power comes from keeping the world in balance, ethically and practically.

Influencer: You engage people directly and convince them to act. Your power is your persuasion.

Pioneer: You see the world as a friendly place where around every corner good things will happen. Your power comes from your optimism in the face of uncertainty.

Provider: You sense other people’s feelings, and you feel compelled to recognize these feelings, give them a voice, and act on them.

Stimulator: You are the host of other people’s emotions. You feel responsible for them, for turning them around, for elevating them.

Teacher: You are thrilled by the potential you see in each person. Your power comes from learning how to unleash it.

The whole process is quick and easy: Buy the book, receive the assessment key (one is emailed to you if you buy an e-version), take the test and receive written advice on how to make an immediate impact, how to take your performance to the next level and what to watch out for.

In other words, for a few dollars you'll get some insight into how best to find, leverage and multiply your innovation factor.