David Galenson, University of Chicago professor or economics, posits a ‘theory of creative ingenuity’ with many parallels to the Leader/Manager risk propensity model. As the July 2006 Wired (http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.07/genius.html) describes, “A new theory suggests that creativity comes in two distinct types – quick and dramatic, or careful and quiet.”
His theory was based largely in the arts rather than business. He was curious to understand why some artists produced the bulk of the finest work early in life (eg. Edvard Munch, Herman Melville, Orson Welles, Maya Lin, Wolfgang Mozart, F. Scott Fitzgerald) while others achieve their notoriety relatively late (eg. Auguste Rodin, Mark Twain, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig van Beethoven, Paul Cezanne).
“Applying the fiercely analytic, quantitative tools of modern economics, he has reverse engineered ingenuity to reveal the source code of the creative mind. What he has found is that genius – whether in art of architecture or even business – is not the sole province of the 17-year old Picassos and 22-year-old Andresessens. Instead it comes in two very different forms, embodied by two very different types of people. ‘Conceptual innovators,’ as Galenson calls them, make bold, dramatic leaps in their disciplines. They do their breakthrough work when they are young…Then there’s a second character type, someone who’s just as significant but trudging by comparison. Galenson calls this group ‘Experimentall innovators.’ [They] proceed by a lifetime of trial and error and thus do their important work much later in their careers. Galenson maintains that this duality – conceptualists are from Mars, experimentalists are from Venus – is the core of the creative process. And it applies to virtually every field of intellectual endeavour, from painters to poets to economists.
While Galenson’s focus is on creativity and mine is one risk taking, I feel that the two are strongly linked as all true creativity embodies a central component of risk taking. The perspective also provides another potential indicator of distinguishing an executive who is more a ‘Leader’ or ‘Manager’ persona and that is the timeframe or age in which they achieve their prominent accomplishments.