"Creative" Types vs. "Detail" Types

I once worked for a place that liked to categorize people. I understand this need at a fundamental level. It's comforting to be able to put someone in a box and then move the various boxes around based on project need. Or, you form an opinion on a staff member based on personality tests and job descriptions. But boxes are limiting and people are more than what you perceive - and as a manager - wouldn't you rather engage with the whole person? There could be skills and talents there yet to be unlocked. 

Some common stereotypes:

Creative Types (also known as "Big Picture" Types) - visionary, strategic, perceptive disorganized, ideas people, no patience for busywork, expansive talkers

Detail Types - conscientious, overthinkers, prioritizers, anal, rigid, strong on follow-through, common sense, focused on momentum and completion

As you might imagine, I've always been lumped in with the latter group. From my very first job where I lobbied hard to be a copywriter at 21 and ended up a production manager, I've been stuck in the "detail" category. I find that "creative" people are very protective of their craft and believe themselves to be uniquely, innately talented - and not the product of nurturing skills over years of work. The detail people get short shrift and little respect in a setting where ideas are what's for sale. Creativity is a skill you can build. So is self discipline.

I dig the HBR version of this: "What Kind of Thinker Are You?" I'm definitely a planner type - which is designing systems - big picture meets process. That's my jam. Other types include explorer, coach, producer - under the umbrella of either "macro" or "detail" orientations. Take a look. What type are you?

Also being a "visionary" is often just an excuse for forgetting to schedule meetings, or make a deadline. Yeah, I get it, you're too much of a genius to remember the weekly status meeting despite the calendar reminder - sometimes I forget I'm in the presence of greatness. Now don't let me keep you from creating that groundbreaking email banner campaign...


So I guess what I'm saying here is - managers, don't box your people in. Hold your big picture types to deadlines, and encourage your detail people to ideate. Sure everyone has strengths and tendencies toward either the creative or detail category - but if you get a unicorn who can play well in both sandboxes, nurture the hell out of that. Or someone else will.