The Challenger

Challengers are people who visualise and bring about alternatives by questioning the status quo, albeit in constructive and practical ways that catalyse change. Activist leaders such as Wangari Maathi are archetypal challengers, but so are those of us who actively seek out and argue for radical new practices and approaches in their work and relationships. 

The Crafter

Crafters are people who develop novel solutions by understanding how things really work and applying these principles to affect change. Crafters are not merely creative thinkers: they are good creative tinkerers who see the world as their laboratory, constantly tweaking, prodding, poking, breaking, rebuilding, testing, and improving. Simone Biles’ record-breaking Olympic success has been based on meticulous crafting of new creative routines, blending artistic flair, and technical precision. 

The Combiner

Combiners are people who work across disciplinary boundaries to develop solutions. Some of the most important innovations happen at the intersection of different fields, disciplines, and departments, and combiners are people who can straddle them all with apparent ease. The Chinese chemist Tu Youyou bridged traditional herbal medicine and modern pharmaceuticals through her groundbreaking work in extracting and isolating artemisinin from the sweet wormwood plant, Artemisia annua, by drawing upon traditional Chinese medicine texts and methods.

The Connector

Connectors are people able to grow and transform their networks in the face of crises. They create bridges and networks between different kinds of people with no sense of social hierarchy. Connectors get their energy from meeting new people, and by bridging and brokering gaps in their social networks. Whenever you say, “It’s a small world”, you have connectors to thank. Kenyan activist and inventor Ory Okolloh harnessed the power of networks to develop Ushahidi as a platform that leverages crowd-sourced information for mapping crisis data. Through the use of technology and collective contributions, Ushahidi facilitates real-time reporting and collaboration during critical events, exemplifying the impact of Connectors in addressing societal challenges.

The Corroborator

Corroborators are people who reach decisions under pressure using logic, critical thinking and data. It was a hunger for data and passion for analysis that enabled the gifted mathematician Katherine Johnson to calculate the trajectory of the first US crewed earth orbit, the moon landings, and the return path for the Apollo 13 crew—a phenomenal responsibility, and one that relied on her rigour in testing and retesting the speculations of NASA’s aeronautical engineers.

The Conductor

Conductors are people who bring all the others together and orchestrate their efforts to make a whole out of the parts and achieve common goals. Sports managers and school coaches routinely do this to create winning teams. Indian eco-activist Vandana Shiva conducted large-scale systems change by advocating for sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, and the preservation of community and indigenous knowledge. By pushing for transformations away from industrialised farming and food production towards more environmentally and socially grounded models, she has demonstrated skills as a conductor throughout her career, using her abilities not just to drive change, but to facilitate it.

Read more about innovation under pressure in these two articles:

· Guardian: I jumped out of a plane to learn the benefits of stress

· Stanford Social Innovation Review: The Original Lifehackers