According to our book, The Geek Leader’s Handbook, the first step to understanding how to manage technical people is by understanding what an archetype is. In today’s blog post, we are going to expand on what an archetype is, as well as why it applies to real life in the management world.
What’s an archetype?
Archetypes can be applied to many different aspects of life. They allow us to group people together and better understand how they work. According to the google search I just made, the definition of an archetype is “a very typical example of a certain person or thing”. You may be asking yourself, “Isn’t that the definition of a stereotype? Won’t people get offended?”. Well, the correct answer to those questions is no.
The difference between an archetype and a stereotype comes down to generalization. An archetype places a person into cultural context by associating them with the fundamental attributes of a certain group. For instance, a “geek” is someone who tends to think from a more technical perspective than regular people. These kinds of people tend to get into fandoms such as comic books or dungeons and dragons. When explaining the geek archetype, one would use the words “typically” or “tends to”. Archetypes recognize that the label of a geek does not ignore the fact that every person is an individual. All geeks are different and often find different levels of “geekiness” within them. In contrast to archetypes, stereotypes ignore the individual characteristics. When making a stereotype, one would often say “all geeks do this” or “geeks all look the same”. Stereotyping involves making generalizations that oversimplify the characteristics of a group of people.
Why are archetypes important?
After trying to wrap my head around what exactly an archetype is, I had to ask myself why I was learning this. The Geek Leader’s Handbook does a good job explaining this to us. Archetypes help us understand those around us.
When we enter the real world, we are going to have to work with people. Whether we sit behind a computer screen or spend time working with others in a conference room, we are going to have to communicate with the people around us in order to reach a common goal. The differences we have are what allows us to operate as a team. Although, those same differences provide barriers and make communication difficult. Throughout my youth, I was forced to become a Boy Scout. Boy Scouts of America preaches teamwork to the youth of our nation. Their method of teaching involves throwing preteens into the wilderness and requiring them to work together to survive.
Have you ever had to work with someone you share nothing in common with? I know I have. As an athletic and relatively social person, it was very difficult to find someone like me in an organization that was often known for having “geeky” kids in. One of the greatest skills I learned from Boy Scouts was how to get along with people of all kinds; whether they were weird, annoying, never liked to work, had strange obsessions with knives, or always reeked of human feces.
The key to getting along with people is by understanding who they are and what you are dealing with. As you get to know someone, the barriers between you and them are lowered, making it easier to communicate. Though none of us will be forced to go on backpacking expeditions with their coworkers, we are still able to gain an understanding of how someone may work through the analysis of their archetype. Working with technical people involves working with their certain archetype. They will never be all the same, but their similar experiences and ways of thinking cause many of them to have similar behaviors or beliefs. Through understanding these, we can work together more efficiently towards a common goal.