Working with ‘Molotov’ creatives

Alastair Pearce continues his series about working with creatives, this time focusing on ‘Molotov’. 

Molotov detonates hand grenades. She’s the creative who demands change in your company and works for it with explosive force.

What’s her nickname? Is it Molotov the Revolutionary, or how about Molotov the Disruptor, or perhaps Molotov the Change Agent? And who gets to choose? Well, no-one decides their own nickname, and this is important, for the soubriquets you and your colleagues choose for Molotov reflect, then frame, your various professional relationships with her.

If you see her actions as revolutionary then you’ll likely pull up the drawbridge for defensive action; if instead you interpret them as prompts for positive change, then she’s a helpful colleague with valuable creative ideas.

And if it’s Molotov the Disruptor she’s bang on trend, for today we all claim – some more plausibly than others – to welcome disruptive ideas. So Molotov’s name and role in your company are defined not by Molotov but her colleagues, whilst her own unchangeable identity comes from her innate need to effect change, the impulse to all creativity.

How can your company cope with Molotov? Well, the flexible nature of her reputation – simultaneously Threat, Asset and Seer – should nudge a management response equally flexible. The company’s ongoing programme of staff training should reflect this by aquatinting colleagues with the range of equally appropriate reactions to Molotov.

No-one decides their own nickname, and this is important, for the soubriquets you and your colleagues choose for Molotov reflect, then frame, your various professional relationships with her.

This will be particularly useful for Molotov’s manager who will have to adjust his / her own perception of Molotov as her roles shift with differing tasks. The manager will also have to be aware, and probably at times scaffold, Molotov’s peers’ perceptions of their challenging colleague.

Three headings might be useful in such a training programme: recognising Molotov; suitable and unsuitable projects for her; and Molotov in a team.

Recognising Molotov is usually not hard. She’s the colleague whose creative ideas seem to be designed to be damaging. Unhelpful disruption appears not so much an unfortunate consequence of her powerful ideas, but rather the goal that the ideas serve.

The training here might focus on ways she and her manager might uncouple her idea from its disruptive consequence. When put into practice, a genuine Molotov will be annoyed at this exercise, whilst a creative colleague who has simply learned through experience that a belligerent approach can sometimes work, will be relieved and rather surprised.

Assigning suitable projects to Molotov is also quite easy, her managers simply have to recognise the futility, and probable pain, of putting her on projects that merely develop an existing product. Instead, allowing her to invest her revolutionary drive in new areas that require challenge to the status quo is much wiser.

A second area of work in which Molotov could be useful is scanning beyond the company’s horizons for signs of competitors’ innovative ideas. Her natural creativity combined with a taste for disruption may well make her astute at spotting the early fruit of similar talents elsewhere. Ironically, using Molotov’s disruptive skills against competitors turns her disruption at home into useful defence.

Will Molotov work well in teams? Seems unlikely given the direction teams often chart towards consensus and away from conflict, but if her manager’s training includes consideration of the human ecology that needs to surround Molotov, then yes, she can work effectively in a team.

You’re giving a dinner party next week and you’re inviting a great storyteller. So, if one’s a good idea, why not invite two raconteurs? You know why not – they’ll both be sulking when not fighting for airtime.  No, criminally unwise, one’s enough.

And the same is true for Molotov on a team; she’s clear about the revolution she’s hatching, and any alternatives will be read as signs of counter-revolutionary dissent. A maximum of one Molotov per team is wise. Is Molotov therefore the natural leader of the team? No, just as the great storyteller at your dinner is not the host, so Molotov is not the team-leader.

You, as host, manage the dinner, and the team’s leadership must go to someone who, whilst agreeing Molotov’s public goals, has pragmatic and diplomatic skills of which Molotov is probably incapable and will certainly scorn. Incidentally, skills similar to those you will use when planning and executing your dinner party.

Molotov’s creativity is useful to your company, but comes at the price of ensuring her managers understand that its roots lie in her instinctively disruptive attitude to established practices. This is the energy that drives her.

All creativity is about change, but Molotov isn’t excited by the brand that works through graceful evolution, she waves the flag for change now, whilst clutching in her other hand a bomb.


About the author

Alastair Pearce is director of Working With Creatives


N.B. This introductory caricature has drawn ‘Molotov’ as female, the first piece for Training Journal saw ‘Solo’ as male. These are random assignments simply employed to avoid the tedious  ‘he/she’. There is no association between any form of creativity and any particular gender.



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