4 Types of People on Your Innovation Team

D4 Team-building model


There is no lack of personality models, from Myers-Briggs to DISC assessment. However, I  always felt that they don´t help much in selecting right team members for the innovation projects.


All these models seem relevant, but at the same time not as applicable as I would like them to be. They are clear but too complex.


Throughout my career I have worked on product development projects with many small and large businesses and still struggled to find a personality model that describes teams in a simple way and that makes it easy to assign people to tasks they are best at.


Also, some kind of conflict always seems to arise during a project, wasting everybody’s precious time. Why is that? And what can we do about it?


 I started analysing all the conflicts that occurred when running product development projects and realised that many were about just two things.


1. Part of the team wants more information, analysis and documentation before moving ahead and another considers this an unnecessary waste of time.


2. Part of the team wants to investigate more ideas and different options and another considers this an unnecessary waste of time.


Hence, the D4 Teamwork model was born. The main principle of this model is that at work, different people have different general preferences regarding

a) how many ideas they like to consider at the same time (Variety of Ideas) and

b) how fast they want to act on them (Speed of Action).


The opinions of each team member about these two things are all you need to know when choosing your next innovation team.


Let’s talk about the Speed of Action dimension first.

On one end of the scale are people who prefer doing in order to move forward. They have no problem making decisions and taking action. Nike’s slogan would fit them well: ‘Just do it!’ They are annoyed by excessive doubt and consideration, calling it ‘paralysis by analysis’. If you want to get things done, these are the kind of people you need. However, in extreme cases, these people may rush into action too soon, oversimplifying the situation and ignoring risks or additional opportunities.

On the other end are the people who like to analyse issues in detail before they act. In order to do this, they carefully gather all possible information and carefully weigh their options. In their opinion, the more information or ideas they have, the better their chance of success. The problem is that they may be stuck in their thinking and do not take action to move forward.


Second dimension  is Variety of Ideas dimension.

On one end of the scale are people who love variety—the ‘creative’ types. They love everything new, sometimes just for the sake of it. They are really good at looking at things from a ‘helicopter viewpoint’ without focusing too much on details. And they are optimists, seeing opportunities rather than problems. In extreme cases, these people jump from one idea to another without finishing any of them and they may miss a critical problem issue.

On the other end of this scale are people who like to stick to one idea and follow it through. They like proven solutions. They see all the tiny details, possible problems and risks clearly, which helps them prepare for the worst. In extreme cases, they do things the same way they always have, ignoring any opportunities until the competition takes over.


These scales are continuous, and in theory it is possible to find a perfectly balanced person who will be exactly in the middle of both dimensions. However, I believe this is rare. In reality, most people will fit into one of four groups, as follows.


Driver – Prefers to have a many options; acts fast on his/her ideas.


Doer – Picks one idea that seems feasible and sticks to it, making sure it is implemented quickly and efficiently.


Dreamer – Loves variety just for the sake of it and never stops considering all the options: ‘What if…’


Digger – prefers ‘safe’ ideas that are proven to work and picks every idea apart carefully, looking for the weaknesses.


Since we all hate scrolling back and forth, here’s a graphic again. 


D4 Team-building model


Now, let’s talk about which people you need at what time during an innovation project in order to run it efficiently, get the best outcome and avoid conflicts.


Driver – Make him/her your product manager. He/She will be able to set priorities, make decisions and move forward quickly. If you appoint a Doer, you will get the same old solution with small refinements. If you choose Digger or a Dreamer, you will be losing time whenever a decision has to be made.


Doer – This is the best person for the role of project manager or for any tasks that require efficient implementation.


Dreamer – This is your problem solver. Got a problem? Get your Dreamer to work on it and he/she will present all the possible options. Be careful not to put the Dreamer on a team with just Diggers and Doers! Their critique is toxic for the Dreamer. Have another Dreamer or, even better, a Driver nearby to cheer him/her up and to help him/her keep on track.


Digger – Pick this person whenever you need a risk assessment or when a certain issue needs to be analysed or a design reviewed. He/She is great at finding detailed information and possible problems.


Structuring your team this way will save your company a lot of time and reduce the number of conflicts.


Of course, people can adapt and work in any of these roles for a while; this is perfectly okay (the world is not perfect and not everyone is always available at the time we need them). However, avoid putting people in roles they really dislike for long periods of time.


This is the D4 Teamwork model in short.

As you attend your next team meeting, you may start noticing how people fit into one or another end of this scale. Use it to yours and everyone’s advantage.

Happy innovating!