Hurdlers and Collaborators: Reflection No. 5


Photo by Marc Rafanell López on Unsplash

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.

6 thoughts on “Hurdlers and Collaborators: Reflection No. 5

  1. Joy,

    I love the idea of the “hurdler”. To be able to think clearly and without panic is a highly enviable skill! It is something that, for some people, takes a lot of practice and can be very difficult to do.

    I have first hand seen young athletes be crippled mentally by the pressure and anxiety of competition, especially when things start to go wrong. I am currently on a bus with the team and we saw a “meltdown” first hand today by the opposing teams pitcher because he couldn’t control himself when things started going wrong.

    The best way we have found to help our guys with this skill is with a lesson I learned from the teachings on stoicism by Seneca. You must first become aware of how you feel when you start to feel overwhelmed (recognize the rising heart beat, dry mouth, sweaty palms, etc.). Then you must mentally take a step back and try removing yourself from the present moment. Finally you must explain what’s happening in the most objective way possible (remove all emotional perspective from the situation, see it for exactly what it is) and then refocus on what you are trying to do.

    I love it! Thank you again for sharing your reflection!



  2. Excellent post! I have enjoyed reading about the different personas you have discussed in your blog. I think that the hurdler sounds most similar to the type of person I call my best friend. He definitely conducts himself in the manner of a Hurdler. This persona is unique and I think that a lot of individuals can learn a lot from the teachings you brought fourth.

    A lot of what Pete said really hit home towards the bus ride he spoke on.
    Keep the posts coming!


  3. These are both the dream boss’s we all want. I like working hard but I also enjoy a leader who equals that and helps aim the group towards a mutual win. It is always nice when someone is setting the pace and even making sure everyone has a roll they can handle. It sounds like your book was pretty interesting. I think we all strive to be the hurdler or the collaborator…if we have the energy.


  4. Hello Joy,

    These two examples of the Hurdler and the Collaborator are great and easy to read. I liked that you wrote the hurdler is normally the persona that is fast moving and reacting. getting over or through obstacles. Most people would like to think they have this trait but in reality they are collaborators. They are looking to team up and join others in their ventures.


  5. Joy,

    I love the imagery you bring to your post. In reading this post I instantly had people from throughout my career come to mind when you were describing the hurdler and the collaborator. I think that the collaborators often are undervalued. They are so critical. They’re the ones who get people on board and obstacles moved before you even realize that they have worked magic. I love the part in your post that states “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.” I work with quite a few nay-sayers and I rely heavily on my collaborators to help get them out of the way!

    Great post! thank you for sharing.



  6. Great post Joy! It seems like the collaborator and the cross-pollinator would get along well. Does the book address any of the intersectionality of the ten faces? It would be interested to know common trends and interactions with certain personas.


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