His StrengthsFinder assessment, hot on the heels of his paradigm breaking First Break All The Rules, began to allow us to create both the mindset and language for focusing on what’s right with us. Rather than on the weaknesses that had until then been the natural orientation for development.
Now, post Gallup, and a decade or so later, he has created StandOut, a follow-up strengths assessment, positioned as a new way of looking at and thinking about innovation.
In his book, published in the UK on 13th September, he talks about business’s current preoccupation with innovation. He highlights the propensity for it to be captured, learned and institutionalised by companies intent on harnessing its power. Hence the investments that are made in Centres of Excellence, Knowledge Capture and Corporate Universities.
Instead, he argues, innovation is a very personal thing, emanating from the essence of the unique blend of strengths and talents of the individual for whom serendipity strikes. Also, that small innovations – those that allow for shortcuts or better techniques – are as valuable to a corporation than massive ones like creating the Internet. And that, what works well for one person in one situation, may bomb if replicated by another, in a different context.
Rather than hang out in search of the holy innovation grail, Buckingham argues, we should all get clear about what gives each of us our edge, and work more from that place.
The assessment, to which you get access if you buy the book, describes that edge in terms of your top two of 9 roles: Advisor, Connector, Creator, Equalizer, Influencer, Pioneer, Provider, Stimulator, and Teacher.
StandOut has quite obviously been developed for an audience of cubicle warriors. The well produced assessment reports headline where and how you’ll be of greatest value, and all of the roles are grounded in examples of phrases you can use to help you describe your edge, how to take your performance to the next level, and examples of things to watch out for to ensure you don’t misdirect your strengths.
It’s that practical stuff that exemplifies so well Buckingham’s move to focus less on measurement and more on what can be done with it.
These tips are further broken down for leaders, for managers, for client service sorts, and for sales. They also give ideas about what types of careers work best for each role.
And the whole framing around strengths is very positive and inspiring.
What’s not right yet
While it’ll work well for corporate folks, I feel it works less well for entrepreneurial sorts, who work and live outside of institutionalised work or aspire to do so. In that regard, I’d rather point people to Roger Hamilton’s Wealth Dynamics as both a body of thought and an assessment methodology.
Also, having done the assessment myself, I was left with a bit of a “so what?”. I can see StandOut being a useful tool or piece of input to leadership and employee development, and indeed to coaching, as it certainly provides a framework around which to have a conversation.
It’s more holistic and action based that his original strengths work. But I can’t see what it adds beyond a well facilitated discussion around existing instruments like Myers Briggs. From having done the assessment myself, I emerge as Creator/Pioneer. These things I knew of myself 20 years ago when I did my psychometric test training initially. Maybe the difference is that StandOut attempts to describe one’s genius in a way that other things don’t. And if that’s true, I think that hooking the whole thing around innovation limits its accessibility.
I’d also, as part of my own coaching, recently done his Find Your Strongest Life questionnaire, and found that many of the questions used across both assessments are the same. So, if you’re not new to Buckingham, you may be disappointed.
I also suspect there’s a wider application of StandOut that could be used to help teams, or businesses better understand their innovation edge. This is hinted at in the technical summary, but there’s a real opportunity waiting to be leveraged there. I’ve already recommended the book to a couple of my consulting type clients for whom the insights of the book, seen through a cultural lens, could be pretty useful.
On balance I thought the book and indeed the whole system is interesting and insightful. I suspect it’ll be of value to corporate folks, new to Buckingham’s work, who are ready to stop living on automatic pilot and step up to being their best selves.