Drifters, Drivers and Developers: What Kind Of Worker Are You?

So, I’m reading Todd Henry’s, The Accidental Creative, which is a book for anyone who must come up with creative and novel solutions to problems in their field on a never-ending basis.  The challenge we face in this position is the need to constantly be inventive and brilliant, amidst an increasingly distracting and chaotic world.  Henry, in his book identifies many of the problems holding us back from reaching our maximum potential and then proposes a series of principles to live by that will allow us to create effectively amidst the turmoil.

The piece I stumbled upon yesterday, pertains to identifying how you tend to operate or work at you job.  Henry breaks these tendencies into 3 main types, which I’ll describe:

Drifter: this individual goes with the wind, working on whatever they feel like in a given moment.  Easily distracted and operating often in very shallow levels of thought, due to their distraction.  Finishing projects is challenging and are often put off until the last possible moment.  The scattered nature of this type’s work can lack purpose because they are missing a systematic and organized approach.  This isn’t to say these people aren’t productive, it just means there missing some critical components to be maximally effective.

Driver: this person is almost the opposite of the Drifter, as they are overly focused on outcomes.  They naturally break projects down into their smallest component parts, in order to complete the work as effectively as possible.  These individuals are propelled by checking off their to-do lists.  While they are incredibly skilled at reaching their objectives efficiently, their rigid systems for accomplishing work, narrow their focus to a point that causes them to miss key opportunities.  Henry says it best that Drivers “are too microscopically focused on the objective and are often reluctant to redirect their energy when new opportunities emerge in the course of their work.”

Developer: this type contains the best of both the driver and the drifter and represents what we strive for in our creative processes.  The developer is extremely clear on the objectives before undertaking a project, but is capable of pulling back and refining their course as new information and insights become available.  They are able to become hyper-focused at the ground level when it’s time to complete the real ‘work’, but periodically zoom out to higher altitudes to look for new opportunities, insights and areas of synthesis.  Because of their flexibility, Developers, are most likely to experience moments of creative insight.

I found this to be extremely helpful as I often find myself bordering on the Drifter type, checking my Twitter feed, reading blogs, jumping back into actual work, checking my phone.  I very frequently move from one task to the next without any rhyme or reason to the progression.  That being said, it would be reductionistic to say that we are only one type.  Obviously different tasks, challenges and environments will elicit different behaviors, but being aware of these types can help you to become more aware of how your behaviors may be helping or hurting you.

Image via Simple Square blog



  1. Jake, always good to have the models to compare… typologies for productivity to see ourselves in. Thanks for catching me up on a book I might not read for a while.

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