Dreamers, Doers, and Incrementalists
“To draw, you must close your eyes and sing.” — Pablo Picasso
Which creative type are you … a Dreamer, a Doer, or an Incrementalist?
I was reading the book, Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality, by Scott Belsky. In the book, he explains three types of creative people: Dreamers, Doers, and Incrementalists.
The Dreamers are ideas people. They dream things up. The Doers execute. They make ideas happen. The Incrementalist can play either role. They can dream up new ideas or help execute ideas. While the Incrementalist sounds like the ideal scenario, the challenge is they are often stretched thin across multiple projects, because of their rare ability. They often don’t get to go as deep as they want.
What I like about this frame is that it matches my experience. I’ve seen a tendency for people to be either great dreamers, great doers, and in rare cases, great at both. What I’ve also seen is that when people know their strengths, and the strengths of others, they can pair up more effectively: Dreamers pair up with Doers, Doers pair up with Dreamers, and Incrementalists pair up with both.
The Dreamer is an idealist. They dream up new ways, new things, and new possibilities. Belsky writes:
“As entrepreneurs, Dreamers often jump from one new business idea to another. Even within an existing business, they are always imagining something new … The Dreamers in the not-for-profit world are idealists — and they are likely to become engaged in new projects at the expense of completing current ones. Similarly, Dreamer artists are always starting new projects, often considering massive undertakings with a long-term grandiose vision.”
The Doer gets things done. They execute ideas. They make things happen. Belsky writes:
“Doers don’t imagine as much because they are obsessively focused on the logistics of execution. Doers get frustrated when, while brainstorming, there is no consideration for implementation. Doers often love new ideas, but their tendency is to immerse themselves in the next steps needed to truly actualize an idea. While Dreamers will quickly fall in love with an idea, Doers will start with doubt and chip away at the ida until they love it. (or, often, discount it.) As Doers break an idea down, they come action-oriented organizes and valuable stewards. An idea can only become a reality once it is broken down into organized, actionable elements. If a brilliant and sexy idea seems intangible or unrealistic, Doers will become skeptical and appropriately deterred.”
The Incrementalist plays both roles. They can drive like a Doer and they can dream like a Dreamer. Belsky writes:
”Then there are the Incrementalists — those with the ability to play the role of both Dreamer and Doer. Incrementalists shift between distinct phases of dreaming and doing. When imagine runs amok in the Dreamer phase, the Incrementalist begins to feel impatient. The developing sense of impatience brings on the Doer phase, and the idea at hand is pushed in execution. And when the time comes to pull back and dream again, the return is a welcome relief from being buried in the managerial mindset. Thus, an Incrementalist is able to bask in idea generation, distill the Action Steps needed, and then push ideas into action with tenacity.”
When it comes to collaboration, Belsky calls Incrementalists, the universal donor, because, while a Dreamer and Doer are best paired with each other, Incrementalists can pair up with either one.
The challenge for you is to figure out how what role you like to play the most and to pair up with others to bring out your best, while, at the same time, helping others flourish.
When people flourish it’s contagious.
Best Books on Creativity and Execution
- Do the Work, by Steven Pressfield
- Getting Results the Agile Way, by J.D. Meier
- Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality, by Scott Belsky
- The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield