James Bond, 007: Licensed to Improvise

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Last Friday, I had a chance to watch the new James Bond film, “Skyfall”, with Daniel Craig reprising his role as the world’s smoothest super-spy. Don’t worry, 007 fans — I won’t give away the story! What I do want to share with you is my observations regarding the personality contrast between Bond and his nemesis in the movie: the evil Silva (Javier Bardem).

Silva is one of those villains who plans his schemes to the nth degree. You really don’t want to play chess with a guy like this; he’s always 8 moves ahead, waiting for you to fall into his trap. Bad guys like Silva are eminently patient; whether it’s taking over the world or simply bringing down our hero, they’re willing to hatch a plot that will take years coming to fruition. In fact, that’s how they have their fun: calmly batting around their prey like flies in a spider web, confident they’re pulling all the strings.bond silva

Way out there on the other end of the spectrum is the master of “winging it”: James Bond. To be sure, Bond generally starts out with a plan, often concocted by his bosses at M16. At a certain point, however, 007 always seems to go off script — leaving his back-up far behind as he takes matters into his own hands on a mad, solo dash after the no-goodniks, racing through the streets and back-alleys of Tokyo or Istanbul. What makes Bond so fun to watch is his utter resourcefulness; he’s always scanning the environment, calculating what props near at hand might be useful to him. “Hmm, there’s a propane tank–I bet I can use that. A fire extinguisher–exactly the thing I needed.”

The tension in a Bond film often derives exactly from this essential contrast: can the Systematic Planner beat out the Seat-of-His-Pants Adapt-er? Or, to put it another way, which is more potent: Strategy vs. Tactics? And yes, I *am* talking about the same personality types you find in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: specifically, Judgment (J) [Silva] vs. Perception (P) (Bond).

In a 007 film, the final conflict inevitably comes down to the Bad Guy going up against the Good Guy — mano a mano. If Bond can somehow lure his nemesis out of the safety of his “control center”, then 007 and his adaptive style gains the advantage and becomes “the controller”. What’s interesting for me is how this dichotomy plays out in the workplace as well, especially when groups and teams are involved. How does a J work with a P, and vice versa? What are the possible tensions between them? And how can these two types work together constructively, employing their considerable skills to make their team stronger?

I’ll leave it to you to watch Skyfall and discover how this epic battle of personality types plays out. Just make sure you enjoy it all with a dry martini — shaken, not stirred, of course.

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