I am impressed by human feats of strength. I love to see amazing athleticism. My husband is always perplexed when he finds me avidly watching American Ninja Warrior. Let’s be clear here, I have very little athleticism, and I am not slick at having balls thrown in my direction, which is why I am so intrigued by other’s physical abilities. In a business realm, the impressive feats of human ability are personified in The Hurdler and The Collaborator. Both have awe-inspiring ability to propel a project forward with grace, agility, and the ever-elusive concept of finesse. They make hard work look easy. In Tom Kelley’s book The Ten Faces of Innovation, The Hurdler and The Collaborator are strong catalysts for ideas and momentum.
The Hurdler is aptly named and associated with the track sport of hurdling. This persona has the ability to move quickly, leap over obstacles, and handle those challenges “the same way great athletes respond to tough competition” (93). They have been trained to think clearly, and without panic in the face of adversity. Before I label yet another persona as a “fearless risk-taker” (although The Hurdler does indeed excel at taking risks), I’d like to point out that they have a somewhat hardened sort of street smarts, which makes risk look a little less daunting to them. They can make a costly idea work on a dime. They make lemonade out of lemons. They look beyond the adversity and see the opportunity to succeed. I imagine The Hurdler persona would likely show up in a young, upstart unaware of the impact of risk or a wizened rebel who knows how to beat the odds. This persona is the maverick of your peers and coworkers. They tend to think outside of the bureaucracy, and rarely accept “no” for an answer. Indeed, this maverick Hurdler is a sight to behold, finding ways over and around the obstacles in a project.
“You will find a fortune, though it will not be the one you seek. But first…first you must travel a long and difficult road, a road fraught with peril. Mm-hmm. You shall see thangs, wonderful to tell….and oh, so many startlements. I cannot tell you how long this road shall be, but fear not the obstacles in your path, for fate has vouchsafed your reward.”
-Blind Seer, Oh Brother Where Art Thou
The Collaborator is another kind of persona that makes one sit back and stare in awe. The TED talk by Derek Sivers called “How to Start a Movement,” comes to mind when I think of a collaborator. Sivers shows how the leader of a movement, while important to beginning a movement, is not truly a leader until he has a follower.
“The first follower is what turns a lone nut into a leader.”
Being an avid people watcher, I would gather that the first follower is a Collaborator. The Collaborator persona likes to bring people together, to unify a group through a common understanding. Sivers goes on to explain that in group dynamics, “new followers emulate the followers, not the leader,” which brings momentum to a movement. The Collaborator is someone who knows how to get skeptics on board, allowing a project to move forward without as many nay-sayers to its success. This persona also has a keen sense of how to nurture relationships, encourage trust, and build strong connections among often diverse groups. They are proactive when it comes to problem-solving and they utilize cross-training to help people understand different aspects of the team and the project they are working on. The Collaborator has a natural ability to foster enthusiasm for collaboration. With every new success, the team becomes stronger and more unified in their common purpose. Again, going back to Siver’s TED talk, The Collaborator “remembers to nurture the first followers as equals,” and “as more people join in, it’s less risky.” Working together is a difficult task for many in this self-driven world we live in. Many of us could adopt the sensibilities of The Collaborator to share the burden of success.