Part One

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The Gatekeeper

The Gatekeeper

Act of treachery: Says no to almost everything. He sees his role as eliminating all risk, keeping out the bad stuff. Won’t get on board with any concept that might endanger the firm or the CEO. Aim is to quash change, to keep on keepin’ on, because few new thoughts could benefit the company. Has been at the organization 30 years, and hasn’t lasted this long without an attuned instinct for self-preservation and not rocking the boat. He’s a stone-cold idea assassin.

Weapons of choice: “We’ve never done it that way here before,” “We’re going to have some regulatory issues around this,” “Not on my watch.”

Kryptonite: Since the Gatekeeper is usually downstream in the innovation process, pull him upstream to get buy-in. And since his DNA is rooted in finding what’s wrong, make the Gatekeeper a problem solver. He requires a special role as co-creator and needs to know that his institutional expertise is a helpful guide.

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Cap’n Beanbag

Cap'n Beanbag

Act of treachery: Tries to be “out of the box” at every turn. He’s always thinking expansively, being creative for creativity’s sake, and lobbing in idea grenades at inopportune times. Any structure is too much structure. Doesn’t understand that part of being creative is being reductive and focused, too.

Weapons of choice: “I know this might not be the right time for this, but …,” “Sorry—I’m going to get a little provocative,” “C’mon, guys, we’re not breaking enough rules here.”

Kryptonite: Make Cap’n Beanbag responsible for impact—make it clear he’s not just being wheeled in to up the wacky quotient. Help him understand how to signal (and to read signals) with the team—and help him value the creative benefit of reductive thinking.

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The Silo

The Silo

Act of treachery: Doesn’t want anything to do with innovation because he thinks he is insulated and isolated from needing to innovate. Believes that innovation is out to get him—that it’s a distraction from “getting the real work done”—and so he distances himself from it. Not only is innovation “not something he does,” but its very presence threatens to erode his way of doing things.

Weapons of choice: “We can’t risk the core business,” “All this innovation stuff is great, but it takes too much time. I have to get my work done,” “Shouldn’t the Innovation Team be doing this?”

Kryptonite: Define innovation more broadly within the organization. Make the Silo understand that, in some way, innovation is everyone’s job. Bring him into the process so he can see how innovation impacts—and can benefit—him. Link innovation to business strategy and job performance so he can see that his success is tied to reorienting his thinking.

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Yes Man

Yes Man

Act of treachery: Yes Man is on board with every idea—which is why he adds no value. He doesn’t get that saying “no” can be a coaching moment. Everyone leaves a meeting with Yes Man thinking that his or her idea is solid gold. He’s more about the energy of a brainstorm than about getting the work done. He loves cocktail parties, planning sessions, and industry roundtables. He hates conflict.

Weapons of choice: “I’m loving your thinking! Way to go, guys!” “I’m feeling really energized!” “We need to find a way to do all of this stuff!”

Kryptonite: Yes Man’s performance needs to be tied to impact, to deliverables. He needs accountability, checks and balances from his peers and bosses. Because he’s greenlighting too many things, make him kill a few. He’s got to be more than someone who puts a positive spin on everything. He’s got to be someone who makes an evaluative judgment on an idea’s merit.

Click here for Part Two.

Illustrations by Alex Fine.

FROM the greenhouse