INK Spells Empathy with 5 E’s

  • April 26, 2018
  • Kari Hernandez

We have a problem at INK HQ.  When we moved into our building, we were allowed to park in the retail, ground parking. Then we were told we had to park in the garage. Then they told us that we had to park on the roof.

Sure, it’s free parking. Yes, it’s right next to our beautiful, new office. Okay, there’s an elevator if you’re tired or trying to carry something. Alright, there’s ample parking on the street right in front of the office if you get in early. But, all that said, we were outraged. OUTRAGED!

Well, some people were outraged. Some demanded to know why. Some wanted to know who was behind this. Some said they might as well walk from home. Some asked for mirrors in the garage to improve safety. Some opted out of the garage and started parking on the street. Some wanted to send management a video of all the empty parking on the lower floors during the day. Some could care less. Some decided they liked the view from the rooftop. One person, bless her heart, just wanted to win the argument with the landlord.

We all live in the same city, were attracted to the same profession and agency, are generally around the same age (ok sorry guys, I know I’m not your age). We have a lot in common. But this reaction is just one example of how seemingly similar people can react to change very differently.

This is just a silly operational issue, but the same spectrum of emotions and reactions can be witnessed in our workflows and in response to changes in the business. Without a method of understanding, I think a lot of that feeling and confusion can go unchecked and people assume that others feel the same way they do.

Luckily at INK, we have a client and friend – 5 Dynamics – who has opened our eyes to each other’s differences in a way that drives empathy and teamwork. We have used this tool for two years and it has been invaluable to unlocking the mystery of teamwork and alignment, providing us with a tangible way to relate to one another and maximize our abilities on teams.

According to 5 Dynamics, we all move through five stages in a project workflow: Explore (ideation), Excite (alignment with people), Examine (planning, due diligence), Execute (get it done!), and finally Evaluate (discuss and measure). We all have different levels of energy and a natural affinity for these stages of a project. Because of that, we might spend more or less time and effort on them – or skip over a stage entirely.

For example, my profile (seen here) shows that I am energized by ideation and doing, the bookends of a project, but I have a tendency to underestimate the time and effort needed to align the team with my idea and I might skip over the research and planning stage entirely in an effort to start testing it out. My teams work better if I pair up with someone who is effortless in Excite, thinking about how this idea will be received and spending time on team communication and delegation, and someone who is naturally drawn to Examine, who will research the idea, run the numbers, and do the detailed planning to ensure it can be successful. These guys will save my butt time and time again. Their names are David Hernandez and Starr Million Baker ;), among many, many others and I thank you.

Our team has embraced the 5 Dynamics platform. It enables them to feel understood and also to understand their teammates. This is not a judgment or an aptitude of the person. Your profile doesn’t mean you can’t excel at any stage of a project, it means that you will flow in some areas and have to be more deliberate in others. A way to explain this, using my own profile again, is with my response to public speaking. I can do a fine job on a panel or presenting in front of an audience, but it wears me out. Once I’ve finished, I feel as though I have been hit by a truck. I want a nap. My mind is tapped. This is because of my deliberate levels of Excite. I know now that I can’t be truly productive after a speaking session and plan accordingly for some downtime or light work. But I don’t beat myself up about it; I work with it.

5 Dynamics allows you to see how a team will balance across the five stages as a group, allowing you to adapt the team structure to ensure all the stages are covered. It allows you to pull a peer profile and receive instruction on how to work best with that person, based on both of your profiles, and how to understand them. Last year, I was working with an INKer on a new title for our podcast. I had pulled her back to the brainstorm phase many times to try for a better name, causing her frustration. So, she did a very smart thing and checked my 5 Dynamics profile where she found that I am motivated by deadlines. She realized that if she didn’t set a deadline for me, I might ideate forever – and she had a podcast to produce! She told me very transparently that she saw that I responded well to deadlines and gave us one – I think we had it named on that date.

What I love about 5 Dynamics is that it’s not about quirks or ability – it’s very applicable to the work. It’s about understanding and leveraging each other’s work styles to round out your team or project. It provides a wonderful – and newly enhanced, more coming soon – experience for the teams who use it. Just ask the teams from IDEO, Harvard, and LinkedIn, and other esteemed and growing organizations.

For more information, check out 5 Dynamics at

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