The Role of a Citizen Innovator in Your Organization


February 13, 2024

Stroll into any kindergarten classroom, and you’ll find raw, unfiltered creativity at play. Little hands painting wild worlds and spinning stories from strands of pure imagination. Kids are the Picassos of making something out of nothing. 

Remember those days of your childhood?

But as the years stack up, so do the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ that education and jobs dump on our wee, free-spirited inventiveness. By the time you’re clocking in and out of the office, cubicle walls have boxed in your once boundless creativity.

It’s crazy, because while companies squash our natural urge to think differently, they also thrive on new ideas and innovative thinking. It’s the lifeblood of progress and the secret for a company to live up to its true potential. You have to peel back the layers of “should”, tap back into that childlike wonder, and weave it into the tapestry of your everyday outlook. 

That’s where the Citizen Innovator comes in. These creative thinkers understand that to unlock true transformation, you have to start with everyone’s individual talents and bring out what’s natural in how they look at the world, and then share and champion ideas.  

Quick Takeaways

  • Citizen Innovators understand how they add value with their ideas and make them stick no matter their job title.
  • Every person fits into one of six archetypes, each bringing their own skills and worldly experiences to the table.
  • Figuring out your innovation archetype through an assessment can help you and your team get better at coming up with new, great, and reliable ideas.
  • Building a culture of innovation hinges on leaders who recognize small wins, encourage diversity, and make space for people to experiment and learn from their failures.

Meet the Citizen Innovator

Let’s be clear…everyone is already a Citizen Innovator. But not everyone consciously taps into their innate talents. And that’s because we have preconceived ideas about who the idea people are – and that everyone else should step out of the way. 

That’s simply not the case. 

In fact, 90% of innovation happens outside of traditional innovation and R&D groups. Knowing that, what do innovators look like in the rest of the organization? 

That’s where the Citizen Innovators come into play. 

The six archetypes of Citizen Innovators

To bring the level of innovation and creative thought to your work that you yearn for, it’s important to understand two distinctions:

  1. First is understanding what a role is. This is behavior people assume based on a particular situation. You accept a job for the role of a financial analyst, a CIO, or a vice president of marketing. A role is what you do.
  2. The second is an archetype. Archetypes are behaviors that are natural for a person. It’s why you say, “Let’s get Jenny, she’s a natural people person.” Or, “Where’s Christian? He’ll know how to map all of this out.” An archetype is who you are and how you naturally show up in the world. It’s your zone of genius, for which people seek you out.

Plato once said that your archetype describes “your ideal self.” When you embrace who you really are, that’s when you’re at your best. 

Archetypes are the secret forces behind all human behavior. They dwell in your unconscious and influence your every move, much of the time without you even knowing it. If you’re a natural people person, that’s a talent that you take to every role you have throughout your career. If you’re a master at weaving stories, you look at the world through that lens.

Understanding people’s natural traits as individuals is the key to creating highly aligned, collaborative, and innovative teams.

1. Strategists

icon represents Carla Johnson’s Strategist archetype

Strategists are your planners and doers. They’re the ones who can chart the course from an idea’s inception to its successful execution. They deliver value and drive results, with a clear vision of the business strategy and the steps needed to achieve it.

2. Culture Shapers

icon represents Carla Johnson’s Culture Shaper archetype

Culture Shapers are your brand builders and storytellers. They can craft a compelling narrative around change and inspire the team to embrace new directions. They’re great at infusing innovation into the organization’s DNA, making it a key part of the employee experience.

3. Psychologists

icon represents Carla Johnson’s Psychologist archetype

Psychologists are the empathetic connectors. They bring a human touch to innovation, making sure that ideas resonate on an emotional level. They’re the heart of the operation, always in tune with the emotional pulse of both the team and the customer.

4. Orchestrators

icon represents Carla Johnson’s Orchestrator archetype

Orchestrators are your tactical leaders. They know how to move every part of the organization toward change. They champion the customer’s voice and know how to weave through company politics to get everyone on board with new ideas.

5. Collaborators

icon represents Carla Johnson’s Collaborator archetype

Collaborators are the unifiers. They know that the strength of many is greater than the one. They’re the networkers, the relationship builders, the ones who turn a group of individuals into an unstoppable team.

6. Provocateurs

 icon represents Carla Johnson’s Provocateur archetype

Provocateurs are your bold thinkers. They’re not afraid to question the norms and propose radical ideas. They’re the spark that ignites creative thinking and pushes the organization to think about new possibilities.

Assessing your innovation archetype

Knowing your own archetype can give your organization a competitive edge. This innovation archetype assessment is the tool you need to pinpoint where you shine and why you stumble in the creation process. 

yellow box with words “take the assessment” urges readers to identify their innovation archetype

You’ll discover whether you’re a Strategist, seeing the end game and plotting the course, or a Culture Shaper, crafting the narrative and rallying the troops. No matter the outcome, you’ll learn how to harness your strengths and sync with your team to turn new, great, and reliable ideas into reality. 

Practical steps to enhance your innovation skills

Boosting your innovation skills doesn’t have to be a drag. It’s all about tweaking the little things in your daily life, whether that’s work or what you do outside the office. Here’s how you can kick things up a notch:

1. Assess, benchmark, and adjust

Start with something as simple as switching up your seat in meetings. It’s more than just gaining a new perspective. It’s about shaking up your routine and sparking a different way of thinking.

2. Think big, start small

Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open. Notice the small stuff, like how much tape you’re using to seal a box. Small observations can lead to big savings and even bigger ideas.

3. Dedicate time

Innovation won’t happen between a zillion other tasks. Carve out a dedicated slot in your week to connect the dots you’ve collected. That’s when the magic happens.

4. Embrace monotasking

Forget the multitasking hype. Focus on one thing at a time, and the ideas that pop will amaze you. It’s about giving your brain the space to stretch and sprint.

5. Reframe failure

Test out your ideas. Not all will stick, but that’s the point. It’s about learning what works and what doesn’t. Call it experimenting, not failing.

These steps aren’t just a checklist. They help form habits that put you in the creation zone. Roll with them and watch your innovation muscles flex.

Unleash your inner Citizen Innovator today

You’ve seen the archetypes, you’ve pinpointed where you shine, and you have the lowdown on ramping up those creation skills. You’re not just ready to join the ranks of the innovators, you’re ready to lead the charge.

Ready to unlock your next great idea? As the world’s leading Innovation Architect, I can help. Read more on my blog page now, or email me today to learn how to nurture creative thinking.

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.