Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Thinkers vs. Grinders

This is sort of the same theme as a previous post about laziness. I've observed that there are two sort of opposed personality types. I'll call them "thinkers" vs. "grinders".

Thinkers always want new things to work on. They tend to be easily bored and aren't really good at finishing things. But they're great at starting things with new ideas and creative ways of solving existing problems. A thinker is also usually lazy, both in the good way I alluded to in the previous post and in the less desirable aspects. They'd rather think about a new, faster, easier way to do something, than to just bear down and do it the old way. Thinkers have to be fast at doing things if they're ever to get anything accomplished because they tend to lose interest when the work becomes at all mundane.

Grinders, on the other hand, are great a finishing things, carrying through, sticking to it, persevering through hardship, delivering on the promise, planning the work and working the plan. They'd rather try harder with an existing process and get good at doing it than experiment with a new process. You could say they're more result-oriented.

Now of course, most people lie somewhere in the middle, but in my experience, they tend to cluster around one end or the other.

Every once in a while you run across someone who has both qualities in generous amounts. One of those rare people is one of my personal heroes: Thomas Edison. He was incredibly creative but also had dogged perseverance. It was Edison who said,
"Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration."

He worked for months trying to find a material for light bulb filaments that would last longer than a few hours. He had the spirit of a thinker, though. He'd wander around his labs and ask his employees, "Are you having fun?". He knew the joy of creativity and wanted to foster that in his people.

You need both kinds of people in the world, so don't despair if a full in-basket fills you with dread. It warms the heart of the grinder in the next cube and he'll be glad that your harebrained notion turns into the next product.

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