Flow

What’s your style that lets you succeed?

It was 8:27 am 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 organizers are looking for you. You’re supposed to start delivering your keynote in a few minutes.”

A few weeks before, the conference organizers had asked me to deliver a 90 minute keynote, starting at 11:00am. Apparently, in the days leading up to the event, the schedule had changed — but the organizers 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 organizer 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 organization. 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 my style that I need to run my life successfully. Let me explain why.

I have created an innovation people profiling method called TIPS, which can help you to better understand how you tick, how everyone else in your team ticks, and how you may use all these insights to achieve more success in business and innovation. TIPS distinguishes 11 innovator profiles that all occupy a space in the TIPS profiling map, which is spanned by the four TIPS energies that drive people’s action (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems), and is overlaid by the four TIPS styles (to think, work, interact and live) that provide the precise coordinates for a particular profile.

One thing I’ve found in my work is that different people innovate in very different ways, and that 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 their natural path to success and aligns to their cognitive preferences. 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 which originate from his fantasy-oriented thinking style.
  • Warren Buffet, who is a technocrat, became the world’s most successful investor by staying true to his thinking style “figure”, which is the opposite of “fantasy”. Focusing on this analytical, quantitative thinking style enabled Mr. Buffet to create systematic investment principles that enabled his company Berkshire Hathaway to outperform the market year after year.
  • As an experimenter, Henry Ford’s primary TIPS style is his lifestyle preference, “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 TIPS styles in line with their cognitive preferences, including “fact”, “feeling”, “brain”, and “brawn”.

Dominant TIPS Style of each Innovator Profile

How about you? What kind of innovator are you? And what’s your personal style that will lead you to accomplishment and success? If you don’t already know, consider consulting an innovation professional who can help you discover these things about yourself. Or contact us and indicate your interest to find out more about how you tick and what’s your natural path to success and innovation. In the coming months, we will launch the online personality test version of TIPS, and we will let you know when our innovation personality test will be available online.

Epilogue: 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 gotten mad about the conference organizer 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 re-balance myself — where all of a sudden, I knew what I would write today’s article about.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2015. This article was published in parallel in a slightly shorter version in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 28 May 2015.