In my mind, there are three different approaches you can take when it comes to living your life. You fall into one of three personas – Planner, Pioneer or Explorer. While each approach is very different, they all have one thing in common: a profound influence on what career best suits you. I’ll take a look at each persona, and how it relates to information technology careers, especially those that focus on enterprise performance management and business analytics.
Planners approach life in a methodical manner, building a road map based upon career choice. With this approach, you determine early on what you want to be and where you want to go. It may be that as a child you knew what you wanted to be when you grew up; or you decided your major and what college to attend while you were in high school. Examples of Planners in professions include physicians and lawyers. Examples in IT might be computer game developers. When preparing to enter the work force, you’re already thinking ahead – deciding what organization you want to work for, what your starting position will be, and what your next move up the corporate ladder may be. You may also consider what’s an acceptable work-life balance between your career and personal interests (e.g., family or hobbies).
With your plan in place, you take a business operator approach by formulating a strategy with interim actions, goals and targets. Your life unfolds like a project with a blueprint. Your plan is constructed from the outset, and you monitor and make adjustments as you proceed. Planners are considered to be very pragmatic.
Pioneers lead the way and forge new ground. Pioneers approach life very differently than Planners. Life is not a project, but rather a quest that is some form of mission in pursuit of having a purpose and cause. This approach assumes that what lies beyond the next horizon may be unknowable or uncertain. You assume that when you’re young, it’s too early to commit to a career, but have an innate fortitude to arrive at a destination. And once you reach your first destination, it may not be your last.
Pioneers think like entrepreneurs, constantly seeking new opportunities while learning more about yourself as you grow professionally. While you aren’t hesitant to make midcourse changes, you do evaluate them first to see if they suit your purpose: to contribute to a cause – something that may be larger than yourself. Pioneers like to provide service.
Explorers are travelers, driven by curiosity. Life is not a project (Planners) or a mission (Pioneers) but rather an adventure on your voyage. You are not just aimlessly wandering; you want to provide answers to problems.
As an Explorer, you think like a scientist or inventor. You investigate and test, formulating hypotheses to prove or disprove. Explorers like to learn. They also enjoy challenges. My guess is that explorers excel in completing crossword puzzles and card games like bridge.
Whether you’re a Planner, Pioneer or Explorer, there are inherent risks. Planners have the least risk, but are vulnerable to mental stress if reality deviates too much from the plan. Pioneers risk never reaching their desired destination. Explorers may not derive enough satisfaction from solving the problems they set out to answer.
Planners, Pioneers and Explorers: How They Fit Within Information Technology
All three personas have unique characteristics that make them a great fit within IT organizations – and a valued asset to their employers and its stakeholders.
- Planners can acquire and master skills that contribute to successful IT project implementations. They may be executives who sponsor a cause and lead the way for innovative ideas. Or, they may be a craftsperson with consulting skills, designing systems for strategy maps, scorecards, dashboards, profitability reporting and analysis, customer intelligence, or driver-based planning and budgets.
- Pioneers can be champions who motivate a coalition of like-minded thinkers to embrace enterprise performance management solutions. They want to drive change. Pioneers are not settlers who permanently establish a fixed position or place; they keep seeking challenges. They determine where they are and where they should go next in order to affect change.
- Explorers can be analysts. They might behave like free agents creating new worlds. Experienced analysts suspect and hypothesize that two or more things are related, or that some underlying factor is driving behavior that can be seen from data analysis. They realize that gaining insights is not like searching for diamonds in a coal mine and that you cannot flog data until it confesses. They seek easy, flexible data access and the ability to manipulate the data. Explorers want to discover insights that can be acted upon, but also thrive upon the learning process along the way.
IT’s Need for Diverse Thinking
Regardless of the way an individual approaches life, it takes all kinds of people for an organization to be successful. Diversity fuels creativity. It helps trigger new ideas and their results – music, apps, books, smart phones or pharmaceutical drugs.
IT systems can be transactional (invoicing or ERP), managerial (strategy scorecards, resource planning) or analytical for decision making (borrower credit scoring, demand forecasting). The best outcomes for IT systems begin with creative ideas from divergent thinking, and conclude with convergent thinking as the best ideas congeal into results. If a team of users and IT have mastery in just one area, they may not have the skill breadth and agility to do the mental blending needed to advance to a fresh or breakthrough idea.
The bottom line: IT organizations thrive when they have a mix of Planners, Pioneers and Explorers. If I organized a team to construct an IT system or address a problem, I’d select some of each: Planners for special skills and leadership; Pioneers to champion and drive change; and Explorers to help make meaning out of the muddle.