The Dream Team: The Influence of Savants on Business Today This is the fourth and final post I will be publishing based on the research by Don Fornes, founder and CEO at Software Advice, who wrote a series called Psychological Profiles of the Dream Team. In the series of 4 articles, he details the attributes of four types of employees in today’s work force. These include: The Giver, The Savant, The Champ (and the chip), and The Matrix Thinker. Each of these profiles has strengths and weaknesses.

Most of you probably haven’t heard of Bill Buxton. But if you have used a touch screen today, you have used a gadget that his innovation helped create. Buxton, who is the principle researcher at Microsoft Research, represents the last of the fascinating series by Don Fornes, Profiles of the Dream Team: the Savant.

I have been fascinated by this series of articles written by Fornes, founder and CEO at Software Advice. These four articles have defined different personality types in today’s workforce and their strengths and weaknesses as it pertains to their work and careers. Reading them, I have recognized my work personality and better understand what will enhance my career going forward. I am sharing these articles with the hopes that you can do the same.

Today, I am going to focus on what Fornes calls, the Savants. When I read a recent article on that talked about the future of User Interface (UI) design, I learned a little about a designer who I think exemplifies this profile type.

A lifelong musician, Buxton is an inventor at heart. It was his design of an electronic drumhead that responded to touch that was the precursor to the touchscreen we use on nearly every device imaginable today. He is part of the elite group of thought leaders that now predicts the future of electronic and gadgetry design, identifying challenges and defining strategy for the next best thing for consumer experience design.

Experience design in electronics and gadgetry is a relatively new concept.  Basically, the concept was born from the idea that designers of gadgets should focus not on the device itself but instead on the impact they have on the user and the reactions they create as a result. Instead of focusing on what the gadget can do, they need to focus on the experience the gadget provides for the consumer.

Buxton defined this concept in the mid 2000s when he compared the two experiences provided by two different orange juicers. His conclusion after comparing the experience of making juice with each of the gadgets was that one of the juicers worked in such a way that he enjoyed the juice more. He went on to summarize that the way your gadget is designed will create an experience that customers will prefer over another.

Buxton is an expert in UI design. He has built a career on focusing on this specific area and moving it forward. He isn’t a flashy CEO or a world-class salesperson, nor would he want to be. What he is, is an expert in UI who helps define a focus for an industry. And while you may never have heard of him, you have been greatly influenced by him every time you swipe your smartphone, your child’s portable game player, or your tablet technology.

Savants are usually exceptionally brilliant in one specific area. They are experts and passionate ones at that on the topic. You are either born a savant or you aren’t, as this ability all-natural and cannot be learned. Savants prefer to work in isolation so they can focus but also because their ability makes them socially awkward at times. Despite this fact, they are often humorous people.

Savants have some characteristics that make them especially great to have on your dream team, which include:

  • They really are good at what they do. You will find few people who can do it better or are as knowledgeable as they are about their field.
  • Focus and determination are their strengths. Their intensity can help them mind the details of a project. They are also able to turn around a project quickly as a result of their ability to focus and work on a project for hours at a time.
  • They are life long learners. Savants love to learn more and are often voracious leaders. They usually are highly perceptive and have excellent observation skills, which aids in their ability to learn more quickly, particularly when it’s in their area of interest.
  • They strive for perfection. Rarely content to settle for anything less than the best, a savant is always trying to achieve perfection. They have high standards for their work.

Savants are excellent creative types, researchers and engineers. If you recognize yourself in these characteristics, you are likely to excel at projects where you are able to isolate and focus, like writing, graphic design, engineering, or inventing (like Buxton). Areas that aren’t as good for you include positions where you interact with people a lot, like customer service or sales. While being successful is an aim of yours, you are also not likely to want to run the company as making big business decisions makes you feel uncomfortable.

I have made my career based on Customer Experience Design. This field, while relatively new, is growing rapidly as globalization and commoditization continue to erode competitive areas for today’s companies.  When it comes to customer experience management, I can go into a savant-like focus. But I am not a savant. Instead, I am more of a Champ with a Chip. So my choices align with this profile and as a result, I love what I do. I am what we call here an engaged employee.

The concept of employee engagement is an important one in my field. That’s because happy employees make happy customers. At Beyond Philosophy, we work hard to ensure that our team is engaged and excited about what we are doing. We think all companies would benefit from this type of focus.

While companies can do some things to facilitate this connection between employees and their jobs, finding a position that resonates with your skills and aspirations in your career is ultimately your responsibility.

It is important to you career path that you know your self and your strengths. You should strive to love what you do. If you don’t I suggest you take some time to define what you want to do and not what you feel you have to do. By aligning your career with your personality profile, you have the greatest chance at success. Best of all – and maybe even more importantly– you will be happier for it.


Colin Shaw

Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin has been recognized by LinkedIn as one of the top 150 Business Influencers in the world.  He is an international author of four best-selling books on Customer Experience. Colin’s company, Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from our Global Headquarters in Tampa, Florida, USA.

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