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How passion fuels innovation

How do you continue to innovate and lead in your industry, and with your existing workforce when you don't have the budget for M&A?

6 min read


Passion Driven Knowledge Cycle

There’s not a successful leader that I know who isn’t worried about how his or her organization creates and utilizes knowledge to develop better products, deliver better services, capture the hearts and loyalty of customers and outdistance competitors.

In highly commoditized industries, the path to true market distinction can be even more challenging. Like other companies, you are sourcing the same set of needed skills from the labor pool, often have access to the same technologies, and can build your workforce, product line and channels through talent recruitment and acquisition. Just look at AT&T’s $85 billion bid for Time Warner for a recent example.

But what if your organization doesn’t have billions in spare capital lying around with which to execute a merger or acquisition? How do you continue to innovate and lead in your industry, and with your existing workforce? Our research suggests that focusing on the passions of your people, as well as their skills, provides a competitive edge you can’t pay for.

In a previous article, I discussed the 10 passion archetypes operating in the workforce that our research team has identified. These passions imbue individuals with certain strengths and vulnerabilities, but they also offer unique perspectives that contribute to the generation and application of knowledge in the work environment, the very substrate from which innovation is birthed.

No two passions see the world exactly the same way, which is why understanding and leveraging the broad range of passions on your team offers you the diversity of thought needed for developing and executing breakthrough ideas. Let’s take a look at how this works by examining the cycle of knowledge powered by passion:

Credit: Alaina Love

There are five modes of influence that passions can have on how knowledge is generated and utilized in your organization, but the most essential thing to note is that this influence has the potential to be continuous. Whether or not you’re creating the conditions for the effective birth and application of passion-driven knowledge is really the question. That’s why understanding how the passions of the people on your team influence the way they develop and react to knowledge can offer you a such a significant leadership advantage.

Creating new knowledge and strategies

Conceivers, for example, are your source for mold-breaking ideas. They thrive in environments where they have the freedom to think in nontraditional ways and ideate outside of common boundaries of thought. They are the framework of your innovation engine and drive the Create side of the Knowledge Cycle.

Partnered with them are Creators, who are particularly adept at taking those ideas and translating them into artistic forms that help others on your team understand and attach to the idea, intellectually and emotionally. This is a dream duo for birthing new concepts, strategies and solutions that the rest of your organization can implement.

Processing knowledge and strategies

When ideas, strategies or concepts are handed off to Discoverers, their instinct is to vet them, to see if the ideas can withstand greater scrutiny. Discoverers will ask, “Who has already implemented this idea? How did that work out? Will this idea solve our problem and is there evidence that it’s workable?”

While they are benchmarking and investigating, Discoverers will gather lots of information and data, which is “kid in the candy store” kind of stuff for the Processors on your team. Processors will analyze the data and information to make sense of it and then package the information so it is readily available to others.

Sharing and assimilating knowledge

Little can be done with innovative ideas if the whole organization isn’t equipped with the learning necessary to apply them. Teachers play a crucial role in helping others develop the skills and experience necessary to contribute to the application of ideas, while Connectors build relationships broadly throughout the organization, shepherding those ideas across silos and functional boundaries. They are the architects of assimilation, so innovative ideas become embedded into the culture of your company.

Dissemination of support for managing the impact of knowledge

Altruists examine the wide-ranging influence that a decision made from the organization’s newly developed knowledge or innovation has on the promise of the company’s brand, and the larger impact on the community the company serves. The Altruist will ask, “Is this innovation in alignment with what we say we stand for as a company? Will we make a positive contribution to society by implementing it?” They act as a moral compass that keeps your organization’s focus pointed to its true north.

Healers, meanwhile, appreciate that innovations often emerge from significant change and that change creates pain points in the organization that must be managed. The Healer will ask, “How is this innovation going to impact the way Joe, Lisa or Mike feel about their role? Does it create fear in the workplace that we need to manage?”

Healers are the archetype that works below the radar to prevent disruption on teams and disenfranchisement of valued talent by disseminating support to help others navigate change successfully.

Applying new knowledge

The Transformers and Builders on your team will focus on how innovations get applied in the marketplace with a spirit of intense drive and courage. Transformers, in particular, will examine an innovation and look for ways it can be further refined or improved. Meanwhile, Builders will set their sights on new stretch goals that can be achieved through the innovation, even if there’s not a playbook for how to accomplish those goals. These are the action-oriented archetypes on your team that turn innovations into market blockbusters.

Most organizations have talent pools with the complete range of passions depicted in the Knowledge Cycle, yet many leaders fail to take full advantage of those passions in the way in which they develop knowledge and execute strategies. By factoring in the passions on your team, and avoiding the common mistake of soliciting input about important challenges from only those team members whose job roles and skills seem to align with solving that challenge, you’ll offer innovation a seat at the table and improve your business.


Alaina Love is chief operating officer and president of Purpose Linked Consulting and co-author of “The Purpose Linked Organization: How Passionate Leaders Inspire Winning Teams and Great Results” (McGraw-Hill). She is a recovering HR executive, a global speaker and leadership expert, and passionate about everything having to do with, well … passion. Her passion archetypes are Builder, Transformer and Healer. You can learn more about how to grow leaders, build passionate teams and leverage passion to create great customer outcomes here.

When she’s not working with her Fortune 500 client base, Love is busy writing her next book, “Passionality, The Art and Science of Finding Your Passion and Living Your Bliss,” which explores the alignment of personality, purpose and passion, and the science of how it contributes to our well being. Follow Love on TwitterFacebookYouTube or her blog.

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