The Archetypal Roles of Creativity

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In the first two blogs you focused on determining your brain hemisphere orientation.  To take this to the next step we will be exploring a concept, the archetypal roles of creativity, developed by Roger von Oech in his book A Whack on the Side of the Head.

There are four major archetypal roles:  the Explorer, the Artist, the Judge and the Warrior.  To begin, I’d like you to take a “creativity snapshot”. 

Using the grid below, think of what you know about these four roles, primarily associating your thoughts about what each of the four words mean to you…what is an explorer, artist, judge and warrior?  Taking that knowledge, then respond to the next questions.

What role do you think is your strongest role?  Put a “#1” in the blank space of the
E A J W grid, under the appropriate role.

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What role do you think is your weakest role?  Put a “#4” in the blank space under the E A J W grid.

Of the two remaining roles, which role is the stronger of the two?  Put a “#2” in the appropriate space.

Mark the last slot with a “#3”.

Review what you just completed.  Does it make sense?  Any surprises?

Now, let’s move on.  Think about your day today.  How many different roles have you played?  List them out…what were your favorite ones?  Your least favorite ones?  Ones you felt confident in?  Ones you felt you didn’t know what you were doing while you were in that role? 

Now take that insight and let’s apply it to the four archetypal roles of creativity.  First, you have capacity for all of these four roles.  Some are more comfortable than others while other roles bring you a sense of accomplishment since you may have more skills in one role compared to other roles.  In the same way that you play many roles in your daily life, you have some preferred roles, some “avoidable” roles, and some roles that generate confidence while others generate doubt and possibly feelings of insecurity.  Nonetheless, you are capable of performing all four roles!  And in fact, you do.



The Explorer:

Think of the role of the Explorer as that role you play when you go out and about to discover new information.

Key to this role is the concept of “discovering” in a way that is not blocked…of seeing what’s right under your nose!

The Artist:

This role is not defined with the “usual” definition of artist.  Rather, think of this role as you looking at information in unusual ways and making new connections that transform the information into something different.

Key to this role is the concept of “connection” and “creating something new.”

The Judge:

Regarding this role, think of this new definition of the Judge --  when you are in the Judge role, you take the transformed information (received from the Artist) that has resulted in a new idea and impartially weigh the value of the new idea and decide what to do.

Key to this role is the concept of “hearing the whole idea” and "impartially" evaluating it, not evaluating it based on your biases and paradigms, but to the greater context in which the idea is presented and exists.

 The Warrior:

When you are playing the role of the Warrior, you are championing the new idea and you take it from the stage of "what might be" to that of "that which is real." 

The key concept here is that of "championing" something and then moving on to the next critical step...implementation"...making it happen!


All of us are very familiar with the role of the "judge" in our lives.  Judging is strongly ingraned in all of us.  Judging sometimes becomes a problem when we quickly jump to a conclusion without listening to the entire thought of what is being presented to us.  We stop listening, sometimes simply because of who is talking to us, and then quickly dismiss what's being said.  I would suggest that we work on deferring our "judge" and leaning how to Judge (from the perspective of this new definition--i.e., fully listening and then impartially evaluating what is in front of us...put it into context).


Connection of Creative Roles and Brain Hemisphere Preference

As you think about these four archetypal roles and your relative strength/weakness each of the four roles, there is a direct connection to the work you did identifying your brain hemisphere preferences.  

The roles of the Explorer and Artist tend to be Right Brain roles while the roles of the Judge and Warrior tend to be Left Brain roles. 

Another insight about the archetypal roles:  these roles are played out within certain situations and contexts of your daily life.  The role you play can change quite quickly and over the course of the day you will play many “life” roles and possibly all four of the “archetypal creative” roles.

How does this all come into balance?  Well, try this exercise:


EAJW Grid 2.png

Compare the brain hemisphere preference numbers from the first blog.

Recopy the EAJW grid numbers on this repeat grid:  what patterns do you see?

In the next blogs we will go into more depth on each of the four archetypal roles and talk about each role’s strategy and how you can develop skill in that role.