Settlers, Explorers and Brokers


I used to think that Explorers were the only important (and ultimately essential) roles which moved civilizations forward.

But have you ever heard of a civilization without Settlers?

Indeed, it turns out that thriving civilizations always have three kinds of people working together: Settlers, Explorers and Brokers.

Let me start by talking about Settlers. Settlers are the ones who till the land, work in the factories, build the homes and care for the gardens. They are the neighbors and town folk who create the stability necessary for society to continue. They live in and care for a place. They think about that place and do the things that allows life to happen. Settlers are the force for continuity which nurtures a community through the seasons of its life. Holidays are celebrated, governments are run, families are raised and work is accomplished.

By contrast, Explorers are the ones seafaring aboard the ships. Explorers travel across the country in Conestoga wagons. Explorers fly to the moon. Explorers, like Thomas Edison, Robert Fulton and Jeff Bezos invent what is next before people imagine it. Explorers see beyond today to a different tomorrow. They figure out not only how to imagine a destination, but they chart a course to get there. They bring change, whether by new inventions, new processes or new organizational norms.

By their nature, Explorers disrupt. They bring about what is new. They often drive others crazy because all they think about and all they do is bring change. As they discover, they keep moving forward. Their offices and lives are full of projects and opportunities left undone. It is not that they don’t care, it is that they have moved on.

Enter the Brokers. It’s easy to see that Settlers and Explorers are about as different as people can be. Their attitudes and disposition are diametrically opposite. Explorers see Settlers as stagnant and stuck. Settlers think Explorers are never happy, always pursuing crazy and impossible things.

I have come to realize that together they can bring both freshness and turmoil to society. Who brings out the best in both Settlers and Explorers? You guessed it.

Brokers are the people in the Port Cities. They are in the trading towns. They are the ones providing the essential exchange between Explorers and Settlers so that the civilization can thrive. If it weren’t for the Brokers, Explorers would never be able to monetize and implement their discoveries for Settlers. Settlers left to their own, without a connection to the Explorers' discoveries, could over-nurture their communities so effectively that they never change, slowly leading to their demise.

In order for a sustaining thriving society to exist, Settlers, Explorers and Brokers need each other. Together they maximize the skill of the other and together they allow civilizations to exist, thrive and flourish in ways that could never happen in isolation.nt geographies. They didn't interact on a daily basis. Today, with our access to communications and travel, Settlers, Explorers and Brokers are in constant contact where they work and live. Being together in the same organization sometimes leads to disruption, but when done well it allows organizations to thrive in ways never imagined.

When Settlers, Explorers and Brokers can work, trust and understand their differences, organizations and people grow and flourish. Together they have an ability to live in today and see tomorrow. That is real diversity, not political or racial diversity, but an imperative diversity which appreciates the unique skills of others for the benefit of us all.


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