Are older folk getting in the way of our younger leaders? FourSight insights

United Way Toronto has a CITY Leader program which provides young adults with the practical knowledge and tools to become effective leaders, navigators and connectors in Toronto’s non-profit communities.

Last weekend I helped them to get to know how to use the creative process in their work.  It was enlightening and inspiring to see their response in knowing how to use their creativity on purpose to realize their passions.

Because the FourSight Breakthrough profiles had been used with past cohorts of the program, we used it for this group as well. When a leader is aware of his/her creative thinking profile, it is easier for him/her to lead others toward accomplishing a desired outcome.

FourSight Profiles show four unique mental processes for breakthrough thinking and give people an opportunity to see in which they have preferences.  In areas of a lack of preference, development tools and exercises are available to strengthen a person’s capacity to ‘think smarter’.

FourSight Breakthrough Process and Preferences

Over 50 years of research have gone into the development of this framework.

The creative process has been identified in many ways.  Here’s how FourSight breaks it out.

  1. Clarify – identify the goal/wish/challenge; collect data surrounding the objective; clarify the true opportunity for breakthrough thinking.
  2. Generate ideas – list many alternative and unusual solutions; choose the most promising ones
  3. Develop a plan for implementation – refine ideas and evaluate them for success; list supporters and detractors and actions for implementation; form a specific plan of action
  4. Implement the plan.

Each one of these stages maps onto the four preferences in the FourSight preference model. People with preference in one, two, three or all four areas show an ease of using the corresponding creative process stage.  Their characteristics.

  1. Clarifiers – focused, methodical, orderly, deliberate, serious, organized
  2. Ideators – playful, imaginative, social, adaptable, flexible, adventurous, independent
  3. Developers – reflective, cautious, pragmatic, structured, planning-oriented
  4. Implementers – persistent, decisive, determined, assertive, action-oriented
(from Puccio, Gerrard, J.(2009) FourSight Presenter’s Guide, 2nd Edition available from http://www.foursightonline.com/)

Interesting findings: Opportunities and Challenges of Being a Creative Leader

When everyone had their FourSight profile, we did an experiment to see if there would be any difference in how people with preferences in particular styles would answer this question:  What are the opportunities and challenges of being a creative leader?

What’s similar among challenges listed for each preference group is resources and having new ideas supported and accepted by others. What’s sad about this scenario is that the people in this workshop, mostly 20-somethings, from diverse backgrounds, have stepped up as leaders and must shoulder a burden of feeling that their innovative new ideas lack support and resources. If we are to enable the new future to emerge, then why do we stand in their way?

The opportunities for creative leadership also show overlap between the preference groups, mention of being influential or acting as a role model appear in each.

Quick Review

As you read through the lists below you’ll see how the opportunities and challenges are perceived uniquely. In all cases but Clarifiers, challenges appear first, opportunities second.  Only Clarifiers did not differentiate their comments in their list.

Unique statements for each group are bolded.

Clarifiers

  • You have to be negative/critical thinker
  • Open to ideas your don’t agree with
  • You have to be realistic
  • You are able to produce innovative work
  • Looking at the big picture and options
  • Burden of expectation = pressure = stress
  • Able to bring Ideators’ ideas to light
  • View you as a role model (influential)
  • You may have a great idea that you need to convince/persuade others and not everyone is supportive.

Ideators

  • Ideas not being accepted by the norm
  • Being misunderstood
  • Not being supported
  • Burning out/mental blocks
  • Not being able to get over our personal perception
  • Personal self-doubts
  • Thinking thoughts are original
  • Get a unique view
  • Break down barriers
  • Influence others
  • Diverse cultures
  • Using real life experiences
  • Advancement
  • Establish our own legacy
  • Actively engage others

Developers

  • Acceptance of new ideas
  • Lack of support
  • Hard to innovate ideas
  • Hard to get resources
  • Time management
  • Motivation
  • Prioritizing goals
  • Positive attitude
  • Working with apathetic youth
  • Lack of direction/focus
  • Make changes
  • Establishing relationships
  • Networking
  • Best practices
  • Motivating others
  • Establish reputation
  • Feeling fulfilled

Implementers

  • Acceptance of ideas
  • Generating ideas
  • Open-mindedness
  • Lack of practical solutions
  • Lack of participation
  • Lack of resources
  • Lack of motivation, inspiration
  • Lack of role model/support
  • Coming up with new ideas since everyone has their own experiences
  • Helping others think outside the box
  • Exercising innovativeness
  • New solutions
  • Unique solutions
  • Being a role model for others
  • Breaking the ice
  • New solutions for old problems
  • Make a space comfortable
  • Create opportunities for networking
  • Opening doors, moving up the chain

These young leaders have passion galore to make a meaningful difference for others and for themselves, they’ve got great ideas and energy. They saw benefit of using these preferences to work better with each other and the teams they lead in their communities to understand where people are coming from, how to motivate them, and how to bring out the best of every team member to accomplish a goal. They liked knowing that everyone plays an important role in the innovation process.

Commentary

Wouldn’t it be great if we could make the lives of junior leaders a little easier by showing them that we are open to their new ways of thinking?  Wouldn’t it be amazing if  they could experience the value of their wisdom rather than let it take a back seat to outdated, outmoded ways of thinking and perceiving that preceded them?