Creative versus Planner: How to Get Along

I’ve been accused of being “pie are squared”, a little too much of a colour-inside-the-lines kind of guy. Which is fine. If I’m trying to get something done I set my goal, set out the steps, and start ticking things off my to-do list. That doesn’t mean that I always succeed, but I enjoy the process of steadily making progress towards my goal, and the anticipation of completion.

Which is why I couldn’t figure out why how entrepreneurs were just as successful with their approach. It seemed to me that they couldn’t make up their mind, didn’t know were they were going, and changed course at random. Their approach was puzzling to me until I realized they just go through life in rapid-prototype mode.

They start with were they are, figure out what they have, and try to put it together in strange and interesting ways to see what happens. If something useful comes out of it, so much the better. If not, they’ll quickly drop it and go onto the next thing. They’re the creative types.

So if you’re a planner working with a creative type, remember that they don’t think in terms of process, but in terms of what if. For you this means you have to figure out what you (collectively) are trying to accomplish in the long term, which will give you a context for figuring out where the hell that latest idea came from and what it means to you. It also means that you need to check in with the current environment often, to make sure the plans haven’t changed. Sometimes this means waiting a day or two to see if the latest idea stuck, but also be ready to move quickly on it.

For you creative types working with us planners, please remember you’re working on a team now. If you could do it all yourself you wouldn’t need to hire other people. Let them know where you’re going, and try to cross the finish line with all of your people together. There’s no point finishing the race if the rest of the company is still in the parking lot tying on their running shoes. And remember: all those good ideas mean nothing if you can’t make them reality.

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