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Industrial Archetypes

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung (1875-1961) developed the concept of personality archetypes. He argued that a collective unconscious drives all individuals towards certain character styles: What shapes an individual’s thoughts and associated behavior is not only his or her own experience, but also a set of universal, innate psychic predispositions. Amongst other things, Carl Jung’s idea is behind that of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a tool which is central to the work of many executive coaches.

There are countless concepts which go beyond the original work done by Carl Jung. His approach to define common personalities has been used and abused. After some research I found a framework which was clear and concise – and one I could relate to. Here are the five archetypical characters with their respective shadow (in brackets) based on the Centaur classification:

  • The Poet: Social individuals with a focused on relationships whom it is easy to relate to (They may however lack energy)

  • The Wizard: Creative individuals focused on the purity of their work (They often lack connectivity with others)

  • The Good Parent: Warm, pragmatic individuals who care about people (They can be overprotective and lack assertion)

  • The Warrior: Individuals with high energy, courage, ambition and a high sense of fairness who thrive on challenges (EQ may not be their forte)

  • The Superhero: Highly ambitious individuals with dynamic charisma and the ability to develop a strategic vision (They tend to dominate others)

Archetypes appeal to the collective unconscious and thus create an instantaneous emotional impact. They represent a basis for personal brands as per the idea launched by Tom Peters twenty years ago in a famous article entitled A Brand Called You: ‘Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.’ Also, advertising firms have long learned how to personify their brands to appeal to certain consumer groups through archetypical characters - think about the Marlboro Man or Ronnie McDonald; or to segment their market alongside consumer archetypes.

In the Diversified Industrials world, I can think of three archetypes, at the highest level:

  • The Engineer-Integrator who seeks to provided integrated solutions to customers according to a vertically and horizontally integrated business model. It would be built upon the Wizard and Warrior archetypes (They may operate too broad a portfolio of assets with average performance and may not listen as much as others to outside perspectives)

  • The Portfolio Manager who runs a collection of businesses on a highly decentralized basis. It would be modelled upon the Superhero archetype (They may not have a soul and may be judged almost exclusively on financial performance with a short term bias)

  • The Niche Specialist who has a pure-play status. It would rely upon the Good Parent and Poet archetypes (They may lack ambition)

Here is the irony, though: individuals, products or companies tend to seek to position themselves as ‘unique’ vis-à-vis peers, consumers or investors. From a psychological point of view, it is better to embrace an archetypical concept which will emotionally and irresistibly appeal to a preconditioned audience than to seek to make a potentially counterproductive play on scarcity.

Or perhaps the best positioning is that of being… uniquely archetypical.

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