vated more to find adequate and
timely solutions to problems than to
advance ideologies.
Eric Schmidt, currently chairman
and CEO of Google, was appointed
CEO of networking software maker
Novell in 1997. He faced a daunting
turnaround—the company was in dire
straits, with Microsoft’s Windows NT
operating system competing aggres-
sively for the same market. In the
face of this crisis, Schmidt said his
biggest challenge was retaining the
smartest employees. His strategy was
captured in a 2001 Harvard Business
Review interview:
I’ve found that the best way to
manage smart people is to let them
self-organize so they can operate
both inside and outside the manage-
ment hierarchy. They report to a
manager but they also have the lati-
tude to work on projects that interest
them, regardless of whether they
originate with their own manager.
You tell them: “Look, I don’t know
how to solve this problem, so why
don’t you throw yourself at it and fig-
ure it out? Take the time and
resources you need, and get it right.
If they get frustrated and need to
blow off steam, you invite them to
talk with you directly—no go-
betweens. At the same time, you dis-
cuss this new component of the per-
son’s work directly with his or her
manager, and there are no reprisals
when a smart person works outside a
manager’s jurisdiction.
Pragmatists tend to focus on the
actions required to move a situation
from the current or past reality
toward a new desired outcome. They
want to solve problems and bring
plausible ideas into reality. They tend
to seek a balanced inquiry through an
exploration of multiple perspectives.
Originators like to challenge current
structures and systems. They encour-
age the exploration of new and alter-
native ideas and suggest possibilities
that others have not imagined.
Strategy guru Gary Hamel is a strong
advocate of revolutionary change. In
his book Leading the Revolution
(Harvard Business School Press,
2000), he writes:
We live in a world where prece-
dent has lost much of its imperial
power. Rather than wasting energy in
defending incrementalism against an
imagined foe, corporate leaders
should be working to build an inno-
vative pipeline that is chock full of
the kind of precedent-busting ideas
that have the power to transform
industries and to create new wealth.
Oh, and on a final word to share-
holders: Beware of the CEOs whose
ambitions stretch no further than the
Originators tend to focus on new
possibilities, vision, and direction.
They encourage organizations to
begin new tasks sooner rather than
later. They often show a propensity
for action but may not be effective
The three change style preferences
fall along a linear continuum extend-
ing from conservers at one extreme to
originators at the other, with pragma-
tists in the middle. About 25 percent
of the general population are con-
servers and another 25 percent are
originators; the rest are pragmatists.
Change style preferences are col-
lections of beliefs, attitudes, behav-
iors, and thought processes that
describe how people accept, manage,
and instigate change. People
encounter these preferences in vari-
ous degrees every day in their deal-
ings with others and exhibit their own
preferences just as readily when
faced with an opportunity for change.
Now that we know the characteris-
tics of conservers, pragmatists, and
originators, let’s explore how they
deal with change.
Conservers prefer to work within
the existing structure and to create
incremental changes. When facing
change, conservers
Generally appear deliberate,
disciplined, and organized.
Prefer change that maintains
the current structure.
May operate from conventional
Enjoy predictability.
May appear cautious and
Honor tradition and established
Here’s a scenario that we can use to
compare the typical viewpoints of con-
servers, pragmatists, and originators.
You are headed home late at night
on a familiar stretch of highway. Yours
is the only car on the road. As you
approach the intersection the light
changes from green to yellow. You feel
a momentary frustration because you
know from experience that this light
has a long cycle and seems to stay red
forever. What do you do?
Originators like to chal-
lenge current struc-
tures and systems.
They encourage the
exploration of new and
alternative ideas and
suggest possibilities
that others have not

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