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Is a Role in Corporate Venture Capital Right for You?

An interview with Sally Hogshead

Image: Shutterstock

My friend Sally Hogshead developed an unusual personality test called the Fascination Advantage based on her career experience in advertising. Sally is a true iconoclast and has won hundreds of awards for creativity, copywriting, and branding, publishing two New York Times bestsellers along the way. She developed her Fascination system to teach people what makes them persuasive and influential. Because persuasion is a critical part of developing internal approvals in corporate environments, I sat down with Sally to discuss how her methodology could be applied to careers in corporate innovation and corporate venture capital.

At the end of this article, Sally has provided a code for our readers to take the Fascination Advantage assessment.

Image: Sally Hogshead

Scott: Hi, Sally. You developed the Fascination Advantage system to focus on how people are different, not better, than the competition. Why is this distinction important in the “innovation economy” today?

Sally: There is a myth that began in the mid-20th century around the time of the rise of mass marketing, that the way to get ahead is to be better. That if you copy what the winner is doing, you can be a winner, too. This has led to a world where brands focus on pounding their logos into consumers’ minds as many times as possible. But this approach falls apart in an innovative economy, because everyone is fickle now and it is harder to capture attention. The result is that the people who have the biggest budgets win, and anyone who is fascinating wins, but everyone in between loses. So being the best is not enough — you have to be different to get and keep attention, and win.

We also have different definitions for what it means to win. Whether for an individual or a company, it needs to be tangible. Growth, profits, lifestyle, vacations, these are all valid definitions. It shouldn’t be touchy-feely or too squishy. And there is no one right way to get your customers to take action to achieve these definitions of winning, so you need to understand your natural advantages. When you emphasize your natural competitive advantage, you’re more likely to succeed.

Scott: Why emphasize how the world sees you, instead of the normal “inside-out” locus for personality assessments?

Sally: Well, since I believe different is better, I wanted to apply that principle in my approach to helping people understand the inherent advantages in their personalities. It’s really based on what I learned helping large brands advertise: it doesn’t matter how the brand sees itself or its consumers. All that matters is how the consumer sees the brand. As the world becomes more crowded, overwhelmed, and cluttered, it’s not your audience’s job to pay attention. You have to earn that. The winning brands are the ones that can be remembered. For individuals, that’s not something that could previously be measured, and that’s why I developed this “outside-in” approach.

Scott: You are the “Catalyst” and I’m the “Change Agent” — these types are right next to each other on your map of personality archetypes. Does this explain why we get along so well?

49 personal brand archetypes — which one are you? — Image: Sally Hogshead

Sally: You see me as being creative and emotionally engaged. I see you as being creative and confident and goal oriented. We naturally have a “fat bandwidth” in our communication patterns. But if we were working on a project together, there would be potential pitfalls. We would need other people working with us to execute and keep it from being too chaotic. For example, the advertising department is creative and very chaotic, but that’s why there are other departments that focus on the details. Finance departments are confident and goal oriented, but can lose their peripheral vision — together, they are complementary. No matter how you communicate, people see you in a certain way, and you need to know that, including the cues and signals you send intentionally or unintentionally.

Scott: Which personality types are best suited to work in innovation?

Sally: Obviously people who are creative, but that’s not enough. For example, people who have Trust or Alert are dependable or detailed. Creativity isn’t 1s and 0s — it requires a spectrum of people who can solve problems in different ways. If everyone is solving the problem in the same way, the output becomes a commodity quickly.

Scott: Are there any bad personality types for working in innovation?

Sally: No, but when there is no balance with diversity of personality types, it spirals downward. It isn’t just about being creative, because if an innovative idea lives only on the whiteboard, it basically never existed in the first place.

Scott: So how would you construct an innovation or investment team, knowing what you do about how people use these advantages you’ve identified?

Sally: Diversity is crucial. Lopsided teams cause businesses to fail.

I would start with research and hire someone with Alert (detail) and Mystique (listening) advantages. Then I would understand what the consumer wants, by bringing in someone with Passion (emotional connectivity). Then bring in Innovation (creativity) to generate a breakthrough. Then bring in the Power personality to make sure it happens. Then Prestige to make sure it has been done at the highest level. Then Trust to be sure it can be replicated and scaled.

Image: Sally Hogshead

Scott: Okay, let’s address some other aspects of your system. Were the original advantages modeled after the seven deadly sins? How did you discover and organize these advantages?

Sally: That’s so funny. There were actually 11 at first and I thought of them as keys or triggers, and I reduced it to seven by eliminating the redundancies. But human behavior hasn’t changed that much in thousands of years, so maybe there is something about the seven deadly sins, too.

Scott: There is a witchcraft analogy that was a small part of your book, but it really stood out to me that by being fascinating we exercise a form of mind control over others. What responsibility do we have to use our advantages versus keeping them in check? How persuasive should we strive to be?

Sally: Obsession and compulsion are the most extreme form of fascination. In a way, successful brands are basically cults — if you look at cult followers, their means and purposes can be very dark. But they organize and galvanize a community using some of these same principles. It’s definitely worth thinking about how to use your advantages to accomplish good things!

Scott: I think that’s so interesting, and it reminds me of a quote from this article from Nautilus about charisma:

“The way to protect people from demagogues is not to kill all the demagogues but rather to teach people how charisma works so they can recognize whether it’s being wielded responsibly or abused. I always think charisma is like fire. You can use it to heat your house or you can use it to burn your house down.”

Sally has provided a special code for our readers, so you can find out how the world sees you:

— → 1. Click here to take the Fascination Advantage® assessment
— → 2. For the access code, enter FORBES19

This article originally appeared on Forbes.

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Scott Lenet is President of Touchdown Ventures, a Registered Investment Adviser that provides “Venture Capital as a Service” to help corporations launch and manage their investment programs.

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