If you ask just about any company president or a human resources professional, they will tell you that hiring creative and innovative thinkers is highly desired. However, merely amassing bright people won’t guarantee they’ll generate anything interesting. To unlock their innovation potential, you must understand how personality type affects how a person contributes to these processes.

The proliferation of social media, internet services, apps, and mobile companies challenge today’s work force to think creatively and work collaboratively – to infuse innovation and build consensus.

Entrepreneurial thinking helped develop each of these technologies. Entrepreneurial thinking rules the day – this won’t change. But what may need to change is how organizations view their peoples’ varying personality types, regardless of  their differences, as each style brings an important element to creating and implementing innovation.

Innovation and the Implementation of Ideas

We define innovation as the implementation of ideas. Creativity is about generating and cultivating ideas. But this is only one part of the innovation jigsaw. First we must define the problem, and then develop ideas. In other words, we must outline the box before thinking outside the box – otherwise we are likely to be trying to solve the wrong problem. The innovation process is then completed by deciding on which idea(s) to act on and then following through to ensure ideas see the light of day. Only then will innovation be something that gives a company a competitive edge, or something that a customer buys because they think “wow, that’s good.”

If innovation is the implementation of ideas, our personality type greatly influences the ideas or category of ideas we’re attracted to and how we act in the innovation process. Some personality types think of innovation as being about creating better efficiencies and adapting what is already there. Other types see innovation as developing something original. It is important to remember that both are varieties of innovation and it is important to know which will solve the problem in the best way.

Technology has made it possible for people to innovate remotely. Social media, specifically, has allowed us to share ideas on multiple platforms, seek contributions or opinions from more people than we could have ever imagined. When canvassing for feedback, social media has allowed us to reach a wide audience, thus increasing the chances of attracting contributions  reflecting the diversity of how people think, which can lead to a richer innovation.

Understanding Personality Types through the Years

The concept of personality type has been around for many years with psychologist Carl Jung writing on the subject as early as the 1920s. Later, Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers, who based their work on Jung’s model, began examining personality type in order to address challenges such as those facing military personnel returning from the Second World War attempting to reenter the workforce.

In the early 1960s, studies in personality types began being used to better understand why people do what they do in their careers. In the 1970s, publication of the Myers-Briggs assessment was taken over by psychology publisher CPP, Inc. Later work by CPP began taking more of an organizational focus, examining how people can work more effectively and frame their communications.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment, developed by Katharine and Isabel, provides insight into people’s personalities by characterizing themby 16  personality types, each with its own richness and contribution to make.

Assessing the Right Circumstances to Innovate

So, how do organizations become truly innovative in leveraging the staff they currently employ? It requires assessing the culture of the company and its appetite for innovation, and assessing the variety of personality types and innovation styles of staff.

An organization’s appetite for innovation is tainted by many things. For example if you’re number one in your field you may have achieved this because you keep innovating or because you’ve found a formula that works and which you don’t want to change. In the latter instance, you put your energy into reinforcing what has already worked instead of improving it. If you’re ranked third or fourth in your field but desire to increase your market share, then you’re probably going to be more open to innovation.

Understanding personality types becomes truly valuable where organizations accept that people are different and they want to harness those differences. Each personality has different riches to bring to the party; no one style is measured above another. Value comes with recognizing what those nuances are and how to enable people to use them rather than hide them.

Recognizing the Role of Personality Types in Innovation Companies

Although the MBTI assessment is not used or recommended for hiring because it does not reflect ability, it does provide a proven assessment for understanding personality types and then creating opportunities to get the best of out of individuals and the team as a whole once they are employed in the organization.

Many of us might remember an earlier more traditional business office environment, one that rewarded innovation as long as it didn’t veer too far away from center, or attempt to change what wasn’t broken. Those days have ended for many organizations.

Now, nearly every company recognizes that innovation is a collaborative process. Those who stand apart will be the ones that recognize the role of personality type in innovation, and create environments that foster the ability of individual team members to contribute to their full potential. Innovation is in everyone’s DNA.  This will ensure it becomes part of the organization’s DNA.