UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

The Social Web and the Belbin Model

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 May 2009

I have previously suggested that although I feel that the Social Web has much to offer that doesn’t mean that I would want everyone to have a blog, to Twitter, to record talks and make them freely available on video sharing services. Rather I feel that these approaches should be available to people who wish to exploit their potential, whether in teaching and learning, research or enriching access to scholarly and cultural resources. But who are the people who may be best suited to using Social Web services in this fashion?

A couple of decades ago I took part in a team building workshop during which I was introduced to the Belbin model. On completing the questionnaire on my personal preferences I discovered that I was a plant and a resource investigator. According to Wikipedia these are defined as:

Plants are creative, unorthodox and a generator of ideas. If an innovative solution to a problem is needed, a Plant is a good person to ask. A good plant will be bright and free-thinking. Plants can tend to ignore incidentals and refrain from getting bogged down in detail. The Plant bears a strong resemblance to the popular caricature of the absentminded professor-inventor, and often has a hard time communicating ideas to others.

The Resource Investigator gives a team a rush of enthusiasm at the start of the project by vigorously pursuing contacts and opportunities. He or she is focused outside the team, and has a finger firmly on the pulse of the outside world. Where a Plant creates new ideas, a Resource Investigator will quite happily steal them from other companies or people. A good Resource Investigator is a maker of possibilities and an excellent networker, but has a tendency to lose momentum towards the end of a project and to forget small details.

Are these characteristics still true, I wonder? And do they reflect the way I use Social Web tools, such as this blog? As I defined the role of this blog as an environment to provide  “an opportunity for me to ‘think out loud“: i.e. describe speculative ideas, thoughts which may occur to me, etc. which may be of interest to others or for which I would welcome feedback” I think I have been using the blog to support my preferences as a plant.

I most definitely use the blog to pursue  contacts and opportunities beyond my host institution. And as well as sometimes creating new ideas (such as the holistic approach to Web accessibility) I will also “quite happily steal them from other companies or people” (though I do always try to provide links back to the original ideas, whether in blog posts or even tweets).

Is the Belbin model useful in identifying the characteristics of those who enjoy blogging and micro-blogging, I wonder?

10 Responses to “The Social Web and the Belbin Model”

  1. llordllama said

    As a fellow Plant (with a minor in ChairPerson) I have to agree. I was introduced to Belbin back as an undergrad in the e.90s, and it really struck a chord with me. Since then I’ve (in my head) classified teams I’ve worked with by their Belbin roles, and it’s rally helped me understand why I can/can’t work well with some people.

    And reusing other people’s ideas isn’t stealing, is the basis of scientific thought – developing through the collective discoveries of humanity :)

  2. Alison McNab said

    Interesting post. As a Resource Investigator myself, it has occurred to me that Social Web tools are perhaps more readily adopted by individuals with certain characteristics than others. [Some of us would blog and tweet whether or not we thought we were being actively read or followed simply because we can’t help ourselves “sharing” news items or ideas in case they might be useful to someone]. There’s a research project in it….

  3. John Hargreaves said

    Interesting that fellow Plants and Resource Investigators have replied to this post!

    btw – I don’t know where I stand in relation to the Belbin model.

  4. Another former “plant”/”resource investigator” responding.

    There have also been references to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) profiles and the prevalence of different types in using social networking. Generally speaking you might imagine the archetypical twitterer/blogger to be an ENFP (extrovert, envisioning, feeling, perceptual) sort of person. Me, I’m an ENTJ and proud of it.

  5. I’m a ‘resource investigator’ and proud of it! Perhaps lots of librarians have ‘resource investigator’ tendencies? Although I was once told (by a change management consultant) that there are too many ‘monitor evaluators’ in libraries!

    As for Myers-Briggs, I tend to come out as ENTP


  6. I find this discussion to be very intriguing! I’m the author of a blog devoted to Belbin Team Role Theory, and I’m a Specialist with Plant as my second role.

    As a Specialist, I love the deep dives into information and then sharing my thoughts with others. I think that I too would blog even if I didn’t know anyone specifically was reading, just to share what I know!

    As a Plant, I love making connections to other ideas that seem unconnected to Belbin.

    In terms of Myers-Briggs, I seem to come out as INTP… although I’m right on the border between Introvert and Extrovert.

    I agree that a Plant/Resource Investigator combo is perfect for the sterotypical blog author. I could also see Co-ordinators doing well because they are broad in outlook.

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  9. […] add that I do not feel that others should adopt similar approaches; as I described in a post on The Social Web and the Belbin Model my preferred roles as a ‘plant’ and ‘resource investigator’ in the Belbin […]

  10. […] preferences in engaging in open practices, which I references a post I published in 2009 on The Social Web and the Belbin Model. The issue of one’s personal comfort zone in working in an open environment was raised in the […]

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