Archetypes – I just can’t say the word without wincing!
It was all the rage a while ago to apply in brand strategising and I was stabbing myself in the eye with what seemed like its mindless simplification.
But, for all my suspicions it was a useful-ish tool and often provided a good base to create nuance from.
In case you need a recap, there’s twelve of them – the Outlaw, Jester, Lover, Caregiver, Everyman, Innocent, Ruler, Sage, Magician, Hero, Creator, Explorer.*
Then these twelve get neatly shuffled into four orientation groups which describe their common basic motivation – social, order, freedom, ego.
The origin of the thinking is from Carl Jung – which means, of course, there must be some substance to it since Jung was clearly no fly-by-nighter.
“Carl Jung popularized the concept of archetype in his book, The Structure of the Psyche. He describes archetypes as being universal models of people, ways of being/acting (personality). He believed that these archetypes inhabit our dreams and, what he called, the collective unconscious.
Archetypes constitute the structure of the collective unconscious – they are psychic innate dispositions to experience and represent basic human behavior and situations. Thus mother-child relationship is governed by the mother archetype. Father-child – by the father archetype.” Carl-Jung.net**
Lately, I’ve been thinking about them again.
I think I was suspicious about the system originally because I hadn’t subjected it to the real-life test.
Could I see this in myself, in the people around me every day, in the people I meet randomly? Does it highlight obvious and consistent patterns in my friend-making, boss-following, colleague-gravitating and partner-picking?
I reckon I’m a ‘creator’. I reckon my boss is a ‘hero’ (yes, I know that sounds sucky!) and I think my dear work mate is a ‘magician’.
Ta-da! We’re all from the ego side – something definitely going on there.
My husband’s definitely a ‘creator’ too, so that makes a boring amount of sense – I like ‘what-if-ers’ and he does too.
But maybe a real test of the system’s worth would be its pre-rationalisation vs post-rationalisation prowess?
Could it predict the type of people who will fit together?
Could it help us, for instance, work out how to create the best teams at work?
J. Richard Hackman, the Edgar Pierce Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University and a leading expert on teams (Hackman has spent a career exploring, and questioning, the wisdom of teams), in an HBR article interviewing him about his book “Leading teams”, says: “Every team needs a deviant, someone who can help the team by challenging the tendency to want too much homogeneity, which can stifle creativity and learning. Deviants are the ones who stand back and say, “Well, wait a minute, why are we even doing this at all? What if we looked at the thing backwards or turned it inside out?” That’s when people say, “Oh, no, no, no, that’s ridiculous,” and so the discussion about what’s ridiculous comes up.”***
Is that another way of saying every team needs a ‘rebel’ in it?
Are there other archetypes a good team needs? Should we be looking to mix and match archetypes when we’re creating dream-teams instead of (or as well as) just mixing and matching skills, experience, age and all those other demographics? Should we be throwing together people from the same orientation side – all ‘ego’s’ or all ‘order’s’ or a mix?
Apply this in your own day.
What archetype are you (honestly!!)? What are the archetypes of the people around you at work, at home, socially? Are there patterns to who you gel with? Who you listen to? Who you can’t stand? Who you produce your best work with? Who you crush on?
Is there some worth in doing something with those patterns to make better choices?
We’d love to know – go all out in the comments!
These wise words come from the brain of Mandy Lawler.