So far in this series, we’ve met a Synthesizer, who we think exists as a hidden innovator in the walls of organizations and companies. The second hidden innovator we think exists hidden in the midst of these same companies is Shannon. As you know and understand Sam, we think people like him can really benefit from people like Shannon, so let’s meet her now.

Do you know Shannon?

Quiet, coy, maybe even a little mysterious, Shannon is an intensely deep thinker, observer, and a wizard when it comes to data analytics. She thinks in numbers and patterns and is slow to respond to incoming, on-the-spot questions in meetings. She is the type who wants time to make sure the answer is well-crafted and just plain right. Therefore, she won’t do as well without an agenda and clear meeting goals in advance, because she wants to have the chance to prepare. She will rarely speak up on other topics or attempt to answers questions outside of her expertise. Being put on the spot makes her uncomfortable. She is thoughtful and her answers come slow and deliberately when the topic is data. She aims to add value to conversations or not engage at all. She will rise to any data challenge and persevere on any problem until it is solved in a way that satisfies her curiosity and exemplifies her level of expertise. While she can be socially appropriate with clients or even strangers, she remains a bit reserved. This can appear like she is not a team player at times, given her lack of involvement in conversations she considers trite or her unwillingness to contribute unless she can offer the right answer. She more than likely masks her social anxiety with silence, lack of consistent eye contact, or the occasional awkward one-liner (which is usually pretty damn funny and seemingly comes out of nowhere).

Even so, she is extremely practical in her pursuit of truth and invests in those things that bring her joy, both professionally and personally. She doesn’t really talk about her work or hobbies though. Those who take the time to know her well, know she is a passionate outdoors-woman who plans intense hiking trips that test her endurance and is an avid gamer when she is not traveling. She goes all in on her hobbies and her work and while she would probably never call herself the expert in the room on predictive algorithms and machine learning, she is the only one her teammates trust to do the job and do it well. She may take it as a personal insult or an affront if her expertise is questioned, given the care and concern she has put into crafting a solution. Even so, she has the respect and admiration of anyone who knows her. It may take her some time to deliver, but her intentions are in the right spot. Shannon will not brag about her deep and meaningful expertise, but she is invaluable to a team requiring her knowledge and her thorough pursuit of an optimal solution to the current problem. For all these reasons, we are calling Shannon our “Sage” in this series. When we think about the traits that make her unique, this is how she might measure up.


Notice, she is certainly different from what we saw with Sam, but hopefully you can appreciate their complementary skills and traits. If you have a Shannon on your team or working alongside you, you may better know her as a Subject Matter Expert (SME). Some organizations do not have a formal way to identify these innovators, but they can be some of the most effective contributors to problem-solving. Identifying her is crucial, so you know the stores of expertise under your roof. The key is knowing when to include her on a project and how to motivate her best work. Again, Shannon is someone Sam, who we met earlier, would benefit from working with when her expertise is required in his discovery and synthesis of new ideas. However, not every Sam will be amenable to every Shannon and vice versa. Natural pairs may emerge, because of some of the traits we’ve outlined here. Both tend to like to work alone, but finding the right synergy in the right space can be incredibly productive. We aren’t done yet though. We are still a few hidden innovators short of a powerful innovation roster.

But before we meet the next one, let’s reflect some. How many Shannons do you think you have in your organization? Do they work together or are they spread out across divisions and departments? Between the Sams and Shannons, who do you have more of on the team? Are there any Shannons you think you need now that you know what to look for? Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments below. Does Shannon have the potential for innovation that you need?

Next up, we are going to get to know Tim. We believe he is another hidden innovator in your organization that can have major impacts on efficiently finding effective solutions and is essential for any culture who embraces a “test and learn” approach. Do you know a Tim? Find out next.