Why hunters and farmers are crucial to problem solving

Thoughts from our Design Director, Sophie

 

Creativity connects the dots, turns abstract ideas into concrete things, and finds simple solutions to complex problems. It’s a skill needed across industries, so it’s not a surprise that creative minds can be found in any workplace or team that requires innovation and unconventional thinking.

There’s something enticing about dividing the world into ‘two types of people’. Even when it comes to understanding creative thinking.

Whether left-brain or right-brain thinkers, introverts or extroverts, strategic problem-solvers or artists, the important thing is that these teams create, and we know any team that makes ideas tangible will thrive on a mix of both.

The ‘Design Leadership Handbook’ by inVision introduced us to the idea of farmers and hunters, and I think it’s pretty spot on (and worth a read). In my role at Chello, leading a design team isn’t just about giving feedback and providing direction. It’s shaping the conditions that allow my team to do their best work. It’s knowing the difference between farmers and hunters.

Farmers

  • Love constraints, and feel lost without them
  • Enjoy combing through existing work to find a more refined solution
  • Thrive on iteration and precision

Farmers will find solutions in a methodical fashion. They get stuck into details and tend towards perfectionism. I’m thinking of our Senior Designer Nat, whose meticulous rigour around creating brands through typography, colour, grids, graphics, photography and illustration brings a brand to life through flexible but cohesive and structured brand systems.

Hunters

  • Are excited by freedom to wander — too many constraints deplete their energy
  • Get comfortable with uncertainty and unfamiliar territory
  • Thrive on new challenges and building a new project from scratch

Hunters will draw on novelty and a wide range of references to come up with unexpected solutions. In ideation sessions, our Copywriter Celina is our most frequently tapped treasure-trove of references, and every little nugget from a wide range of sources often leads us in unexpected directions.

Farmers

  • Love constraints, and feel lost without them
  • Enjoy combing through existing work to find a more refined solution
  • Thrive on iteration and precision

Farmers will find solutions in a methodical fashion. They get stuck into details and tend towards perfectionism. I’m thinking of our Senior Designer Nat, whose meticulous rigour around creating brands through typography, colour, grids, graphics, photography and illustration brings a brand to life through flexible but cohesive and structured brand systems.

Hunters

  • Are excited by freedom to wander — too many constraints deplete their energy
  • Get comfortable with uncertainty and unfamiliar territory
  • Thrive on new challenges and building a new project from scratch

Hunters will draw on novelty and a wide range of references to come up with unexpected solutions. In ideation sessions, our Copywriter Celina is our most frequently tapped treasure-trove of references, and every little nugget from a wide range of sources often leads us in unexpected directions.

You don’t have to be a ~professional creative~ to be either of these. No matter what kind of work you do, you’ll probably identify with one more than the other. And I’m sure you’ve got colleagues who immediately come to mind across both.

But can you be both?

You might find yourself identifying with one but with a few elements of the other. People can stretch their natural tendencies too and, realistically, in most work environments you rarely have the luxury of being able to work only one way. 

For both myself and our Designer Becky, we tend to straddle both, balancing the strategic, outcome-focused thinking required for marketing campaigns, with the hunger for research and visual inspiration on branding projects. While it’s useful to categorise people, it’s limiting to pigeonhole them (and for our newest recruit Bec the jury’s still out).

When you’re managing creative deliverables, working with creative teams and agencies, or even solving problems that require your team to think outside the box, it can be crucial to know who works best under which circumstances. And, more importantly, what to do when they have to switch out of their natural tendency. Here’s what we’ve found can work when a hunter needs to farm and a farmer needs to hunt.

Helping farmers hunt and helping hunters farm

Helping farmers hunt

  • Turn the search for solution-based thinking into a well defined challenge or open ended question. For example, “Find three references of companies who faced the same challenge, but outside this industry.”
  • Set regular  ‘check-ins’ with clear but small goals
  • Give as much background as possible. Why are we attempting to solve this particular problem?
  • Emphasise volume of solutions over quality. Turn it into a competition if you must.

Helping hunters farm

  • Create space in workflows for free-wheeling problem-solving; especially earlier in a process
  • Offer a defined time to go explore and come back with references and answers
  • Feed and lead them with inspiration, divergent challenges and hypotheticals but a clear outcome they can focus on
  • Provide a framework or template, so that all those ideas can be teased out into a coherent and logical structure

Helping farmers hunt

  • Turn the search for solution-based thinking into a well defined challenge or open ended question. For example, “Find three references of companies who faced the same challenge, but outside this industry.”
  • Set regular  ‘check-ins’ with clear but small goals
  • Give as much background as possible. Why are we attempting to solve this particular problem?
  • Emphasise volume of solutions over quality. Turn it into a competition if you must.

Helping hunters farm

  • Create space in workflows for free-wheeling problem-solving; especially earlier in a process
  • Offer a defined time to go explore and come back with references and answers
  • Feed and lead them with inspiration, divergent challenges and hypotheticals but a clear outcome they can focus on
  • Provide a framework or template, so that all those ideas can be teased out into a coherent and logical structure

Seeing the value in both

Thriving at work isn’t about an individual struggle, it’s about finding ways to do the best work, with the best people, operating at their best. To achieve the most creative and innovative results, it’s important that hunters see and value the strengths of a farmer, and vice versa, to continue to learn from one another and stay open to new ideas and ways of working.

Nurturing and strengthening those creative minds could provide the most unexpected solutions to your biggest challenges. And in the wise words of a more unconventional creative, “If you’ve got talent, protect it” — Jim Carrey (…who we suspect is a farmer).

PSA: If you’re curious about exploring your own creativity and that of your team, this 5-minute aesthetically-delicious quiz from Adobe breaks down the many faces of the creative personality, and how to get the most out of your natural creative gifts.

Sophie is our Design Director. A large part of her role is nurturing the talents of the people who turn ideas into designs. So she knows a thing or two about how to herd farmers and hunters. As the most likely person to post a culturally vicious meme to our Slack, and with an instantaneous and involuntary reaction to bad typography, she also brings a discerning mind and eye to every strategic and design project that comes through the studio.

Sophie is our Design Director. A large part of her role is nurturing the talents of the people who turn ideas into designs. So she knows a thing or two about how to herd farmers and hunters. As the most likely person to post a culturally vicious meme to our Slack, and with an instantaneous and involuntary reaction to bad typography, she also brings a discerning mind and eye to every strategic and design project that comes through the studio.

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