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Why We Should Hire & Develop Purple People


Steve Jobs talked about “The Do-ers being the major Thinkers” . . . which continues to be thought provoking, and is a great antidote to procrastination!

But I was reminded recently about Wayne Eckerson’s “Purple People” who also combine two key characteristics.

I think there is a common theme here . . .

Wayne Eckerson describes purple people as a personality type, where the two primary colours, red and blue, are mixed to make purple.

He explains how there are ‘red’ personality types and ‘blue’ people, who are divided.

A blue person can be considered someone who is representative of great business acumen. In a professional environment, a blue person may have good knowledge of the business and will have the skills to apply that knowledge in their everyday work life.

A red person may excel in the technical and practical elements of a job and may know what needs to be done, and how to do it. But they may not know why things need to be done.

A purple person is someone who holds both characteristics and can act as a “force multiplier” in your organisation.

Tom Davenport describes purple people as those who possess a mix of business and technology skills and serve as translators between those worlds.

Purple people have made big contributions throughout history, people who bridged technical and business environments. As long as there have been complex technologies, there have been people who learned to understand them and to help apply them to solving business and organizational problems. In the Industrial Revolution, mechanics and technicians invented or improved industrial machinery to make textile mills more effective.

Kaplan describe how you can become a “purple person” using four strategies;

  1. Work experience – adapt, gain as much experience as possible and try and say “yes” to every opportunity.
  2. Network – with industry professionals will help you gain insight into how they work, and help you put your knowledge to practical use.
  3. Further your education in your chosen field.
  4. Be inquisitive – whether you’re more of a blue or red person, it’s important to always ask questions and curiosity can be your superpower!

Both business and technology skills are valuable in themselves, but they are most valuable when combined.

Just as “Thinking” and “Doing” are most valuable when combined . . .

You can see a snippet of the original Steve Jobs “Thinkers and Doers” interview here . . .

You can read Kaplan’s overview of how to become a Purple Person here . . .

Tom Davenport on behalf of Deloitte describes the Purple Person journey here . . .

Wayne Eckerson discusses his original thinking on Purple People here . . .

Thanks for reading . . .