In several companies, I’ve watched an Idea Guy who partnered with a Business Guy to build a business only to squeeze the Business Guy out as things got bigger, went awry, and the Business Guy tried to constrain the Ideas Guy. In every case, once the Business Guy went, the company might temporarily soar to great success with its flashy ideas, but inevitably, it falters and loses its way.
When discussing this with my friend Taylor Trask of Strategic Blend, he pointed out to me that a good way to think of this is through the roles: Madman, Architect, Carpenter. These three roles complement each other and often lead to great work. The Madman dreams up the idea. The Architect plans it. The Carpenter builds it. Taylor and I immediately thought of several real life examples where we’d witnessed this dynamic.
The Madman, Architect, and Carpenter roles originated with an English professor — Betty S. Flowers at the University of Texas — who also included Judge in her paradigm. Her intent was to show writers the roles they need to play to do good work and the sequential nature of them. The Madman dreams up wild ideas. The Architect plans how to execute them. The Carpenter builds (writes). The Judge edits.
These are necessarily sequential. A writer needs to stifle any appearance by the Judge during the Madman phase and needs to keep the Architect at bay while the Carpenter is building.
The Flowers Paradigm is a great model for anyone wanting to do good work. And since we can’t all play every role in our jobs all the time (i.e. you can’t have three Madmen on a project and no Carpenter or Judge), it’s helpful to consider the roles as separated between individuals. Taylor suggested that in a web production environment, the Architect might assume the role of Judge later in the project, leaving a three person team (Madman, Architect, Carpenter) an ideal dynamic to run a project or business.
The chief insight of the Flowers Paradigm is that the roles are distinct and sequential. Teams full of Madmen or Judges get nothing done. And teams of Architects and Carpenters lack the fuel and balance they need to do their best work.