Archetypes – worth looking into? (Find 15: 30 January – 3 February)

This week I was drawn to a webinar hosted by James McLuckie (of Eden Tree and the Learning and Development Group on LinkedIn) and presented by Patrick Bray (Pad) of Team Me. It was titled ‘transforming personal and professional performance with archetypes’ and this is what Pad does everyday.

The idea of archetypes stretches back as far as Plato, with teachers and thinkers defining different numbers and names of archetypes over the millennia.

As Pad’s focus is on performance, he’s chosen to hone in on just six archetypes which define the Team Me model:

  • The Sovereign is a confident individual who isn’t afraid to take command and use their position of power in order to establish justice, prosperity and success in their ‘realm’.
  • The Warrior is a capable, passionate individual who ensures boundaries are respected and enforced and whose focus is on getting the job done (and getting it done right).
  • The Sage is a logical, rational individual who places a lot of emphasis on evidence and intellect, and who considers life to be about continuous learning and searching for truth.
  • The Mystic is someone who can detach themselves to take a big picture view or adopt different perspectives, making them good mediators, skilled at managing change and influencing people.
  • The Lover is a trusting, open and nurturing individual who values relationships, harmony and personal connections between people most highly.
  • The Jester is someone who lives life like a game, avoiding boredom or monotony and always finding the funny side in situations, sharing their lighthearted views with those around them.

Pad explained that everybody has elements of all six within them, but some will be more dominant than others, as illustrated by a simple ‘personal profile’ bar chart based on 1-10 ratings against each archetype. The archetypes group broadly into two categories: those associated with left-brain logic or rationality (Sovereign, Warrior and Sage) and those associated with right-brain creativity (Mystic, Lover and Jester). We’ve all heard that ‘opposites attract’ and this applies to archetypes too – opposite archetypes often have common connections, for example in what drives them or their perception of time:

  • The Sovereign works well with the Mystic, because both are driven by power and both tend to look ahead.
  • The Warrior works well with the Lover, because both are driven by passion and both focus on the present.
  • The Sage works well with the Jester, because both are driven by perception and both look heavily to the past.

Of course, everything so far suggests that archetypes are fairly one-dimensional. We might well recognise these profiles, particularly when we think of characters from literature, film or TV, but most of us probably don’t like to think we can be so simply defined. Pad acknowledges this with the notion of ‘the shadow side’: the idea that each archetype has its healthy, balanced state but also has the potential to become ‘overheated’ (an excessive caricature, almost, often as a result of their personal needs not being met) or ‘frozen’ (almost the antithesis of their balanced state, often prompted by failing at something despite giving it their best shot).

I found all this pretty interesting – and obviously this is just a taster of the Team Me model – but I do have some reservations:

  • Although Pad does have a questionnaire he sometimes uses to help people identify their archetype profile, this often seems to be done simply by asking an individual how strong they feel each archetype is within them. I think I have two concerns about this. Firstly, I think I know myself fairly well. Yes, this perhaps provides a structured framework through which I can articulate that knowledge, but I’m not sure that a list of recognisable archetypes will really help me develop my understanding of myself. Secondly, what would help me develop that understanding would be something beyond my own perspective, a more objective exploration of my character – for example through a questionnaire or others’ views of me. For me, this would be a more useful application of the model.
  • I feel a little bit ‘so what?’ about it all. It’s interesting to think about what my profile might look like – although, again, I don’t really feel like my personal profile as created by me is particularly valuable – and it’s fascinating to consider to what extent authors and scriptwriters draw on the archetypes. But it does feel a little superficial, a little one-dimensional. I’m not entirely sure what I’m meant to do with this information.

It’s disappointing, then, that the hour-long webinar had to (understandably) spend a considerable amount of time simply explaining the concept of the archetypes, leaving little time to explore how they might be used to transform personal and professional development. Pad made two suggestions:

  • Mapping an individual’s personal profile separately from their professional profile, and comparing the two. For example, someone might consider the Lover to be their predominant archetype at home and in their personal life, but the Warrior to be more evident at work. Mapping the two against one another and identifying any significant disparaties can, Pad says, help to get to the root of performance issues and I guess lead to constructive discussions about strengths, weaknesses and development actions.
  • Creating the ideal archetype profile for a particular role and using this during the recruitment process. This might involve asking candidates to rate themselves against the model and then mapping them against the role profile to see who is likely to be more or less suitable. There was some uncertainty about this on the Twitter backchannel, and I doubt Pad was suggesting that this be used as the sole recruitment tool. It’s not unusual for organisations to include some level of psychometric profiling in the recruitment process, and this is just another take on that.

I think ultimately for me this has given me something interesting to think about; like learning styles, right-brain/left-brain theories and MBTI (which, incidentally, Pad approves of but thinks is less easy for people to connect with) the Team Me archetypes offer a potentially useful reminder of different character traits and preferences when designing learning solutions, but I’m not yet totally convinced of the value of archetypes for really transforming performance. Maybe I need to explore it more deeply though to really uncover the value.

(I cheated a bit with Find 15 this week – after Learning Technologies and Performance Support conferences last week, there’s simply too much to reflect on and share. So I’ve been blogging in my lunchtimes and evenings all week, and used my ‘designated’ 75 minutes to attend and write up this webinar.)

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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3 thoughts on “Archetypes – worth looking into? (Find 15: 30 January – 3 February)

  1. carol scott

    I also did the webinar and was left with a a so-what feeling but overall I thought it was well presented and food for thought. I’ve also done another archetypes profile called Wealth Dynamic which really didnt tell me anything I didnt already know. One of the issues Ihave with this kind ofthing is they seem to have a biase towards a masculine type. What is Find 15 Stephanie? Well written piece BtW.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie Dedhar Post author

      Hi Carol, thanks for your comment! It’s an interesting point about the bias towards masculine type – I think Pad addressed this in the Q&A sent round after the webinar although I’ve not had time to read it thoroughly yet. Find 15 is Julie Wedgwood’s approach to personal/professional development, making time for learning in a busy schedule. You can read about it on her blog (http://juliewedgwood.blogspot.com/2011/06/find-15.html) or in this article which Julie wrote for Saffron Interactive (http://www.saffroninteractive.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Advance_33_JulieWedgwood_FindingTimeForLearning.pdf). Enjoy!

      Reply

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