What's your style that lets you succeed?

What's your style that lets you succeed?

It was 8.27am last Sunday when my phone rang. I was reviewing my presentation for a keynote talk that I was supposed to deliver two-and-a-half hours later at an international conference. "Where are you?" the caller asked. "The conference organisers are looking for you. You're supposed to start delivering your keynote in a few minutes."

A few weeks before, the organisers had asked me to deliver a 90-minute keynote starting at 11am. Apparently, in the days leading up to the event, the schedule had changed — but the organisers had failed to inform me. I responded to the situation by offering to give my talk as a parallel session later in the day. After some debate, however, the organisers and I decided to postpone the talk until a future event.

When I ran into a friend later and told her the story, she said: "Well, that's what I call unprofessional event organisation. You must be furious." I responded: "Yes, at first I was. But I decided to let go of the incident so I could stay 'in flow' for the rest of the day." And then I explained to her why.

Flow drives my creativity and success

Sometimes, the river of life flows quietly and slowly, and at other times it is frantic and overflowing with opportunities and commitments. Earlier this year, my life was rather quiet, but now I am blessed with a busy, event-filled schedule. In a single month, I am scheduled to deliver innovation-related talks on 25 of 30 days. How do I get through a schedule like that? By focusing on being and staying in flow. Flow is the style I need to run my life successfully. Let me explain why.

One thing I've found in my work is that different people innovate in very different ways, and those innovation styles fall into several distinct categories. For example, I fall squarely into the "ideator" category. People like me are fascinated by ideas, and to do well we need to be in flow, which helps us to be bold and innovative. Embracing flow means being comfortable in a world that is constantly changing and which provides a lot of individual freedom. It's a risky way to be, but it offers a steady stream of new opportunities and fresh stimuli. Being in flow allows ideators like me to both drive change and flow along with the changes of life, using it all to create meaning and positive change.

What's your style?

Just as flow is the key to an ideator's success and creativity, every other kind of innovator has a style that is his or her natural path to success. Here are a few examples:

Promoters work best in the "fantasy" style, which means indulging in imagination and creativity. David Ogilvy became the world's most admired advertiser by mastering the art of crafting witty, creative ad campaigns that originated from his fantasy-oriented thinking style.

Warren Buffett, who is a technocrat, became the world's most successful investor by staying true to his thinking style of "figure", which is the opposite of "fantasy". Focusing on this analytical, quantitative thinking style enabled Mr Buffett to create systematic investment principles and drive his company Berkshire Hathaway to outperform the market year after year.

As an experimenter, Henry Ford's primary thinking style was "form and flow". Starting with "flow", Ford first created the moving assembly line, which allowed for faster, cheaper automobile production. Later he went into "form", constantly improving and perfecting this new production process.

With the exception of the well-balanced "all-rounder", all other kinds of innovators have their own preferred thinking styles including "fact", "feeling", "brain" and "brawn".

What kind of innovator are you? And what's your thinking style that will lead you to accomplishment and success? If you don't already know, consider consulting an innovation professional who can help you to discover these things about yourself.

Aside from the cancelled keynote last Sunday, I had a train-the-trainer session with someone from my company scheduled for later in the day, and I also had to find an idea for this column. Should I have got mad about the conference organisers not informing me about the schedule change? Should I have indulged my ego, thereby ruining the rest of the day? Or should I have put the missed opportunity to speak behind me and instead tried to get back into flow, enabling me to accomplish what I needed to that day? I chose the latter and headed to the gym to rebalance myself — where all of a sudden, I knew what I would write today's article about.

Dr Detlef Reis is the founding director and chief ideator of Thinkergy Ltd (Thinkergy.com), an ideation and innovation company in Asia, a lecturer in business creativity and innovation leadership at Mahidol University's College of Management and an adjunct associate professor at Hong Kong Baptist University. He can be reached at dr.d@thinkergy.com

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