The Explorer And The Swamp Drainer

by: Doug Michaelides

This is a business fable about two colleagues who tried to achieve something great but never made it.  They showed flashes of brilliance and often enjoyed working together, but they drove each other nuts.  Their partnership fell apart before they were able to realize their dream.

John was an Explorer.  He was a visionary who cast his gaze towards the horizon and saw limitless potential.  When John set out, he saw no barriers.   His excitement was contagious and often inspired others to join him.  With eyes fixed on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, he charged forward, confident that everything would work out.  Anyway, if the going got too rough, well, John knew there would be other irresistible paths to follow with even greater possibilities.

John’s partner Don was a Swamp Drainer.  He never seemed to get too excited about rainbows or pots of gold.  He was more concerned about what needed to be done to get there. Every time John saw an opportunity, Don saw the problems they’d need to overcome and the preparations they’d have to make.  Don thought of himself as a realist and a planner, but he could easily kill a promising idea before it had a chance to grow. Sometimes John the Explorer couldn’t stand Don the Swamp Drainer – he was such a downer!

To a certain degree, most people are either Explorers or Swamp Drainers.  They can work together successfully, but only if they acknowledge and value their counterpart’s contributions.  The Swamp Drainer can get energy from the Explorer’s vision, if he can overcome his anxiety at the risks and effort required to achieve it.  The Explorer can gain confidence from the Swamp Drainer’s planning and problem solving if he can avoid being deflated when his dreams are brought down to earth.  Working together, they can be unstoppable.

Successful businesses are built on this partnership repeated at many levels within the organization.  Yet many ventures fail, and friendships are lost, because of the differences in perspective and thought processes between co-workers.  That’s what happened to John and Don, but it doesn’t have to happen to you.

Whether you’re more Explorer or Swamp Drainer, it’s worth figuring out how to work with your counterpart.  Because an Explorer without a Swamp Drainer rarely reaches that pot of gold.  And without an Explorer to inspire him, a Swamp Drainer may end up just playing around in muck.

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