Weird Management From Harvard Business Review

Weird Management From Harvard Business ReviewHarvard Business recently published an article on creating innovation in your organization by:

Hiring people you don’t like, then promoting them when they defy you. Wholeheartedly committing to risky projects. Getting your happiest workers arguing, and keeping your innovators away from customers.

Now, many of you know I am all for being weird and creative. At the same time I have written extensively about common sense in management and in the workplace. While I might agree with some of these ideas, I would disagree with hiring these kinds of individuals.

Robert Sutton picked up the story at BNet and related the following:

When new hires at a toy company pointed out current products’ flaws, their behavior made senior executives “hate them.” But the complainers kept generating great new-toy ideas. The lesson? Intentionally hire unlikable, creative people.

Company culture is the big player here. If your senior brass is not open to this kind of discovery or feedback, for get it. Often, the voices from within hold less sway than a contractor’s input. Sad, but true.

Design Continuum hires engineers who have moonlighted as sculptors, carpenters, graffiti artists, and rock musicians. Their offbeat backgrounds provide a broad palette of product-design ideas to try in new ways.

I am a big advocate of learning and growing outside of your job description. The environment a”creative” employ is hired into and setting the proper expectations are keys to keeping this kind of person on staff. Unfortunately, when one or both of these is lacking, the creative hire gets frustrated and bails out. No good for either side.

Ballard Power Systems hired chemistry professor Keith Prater to develop batteries, though he lacked related experience. Prater proceeded to generate breakthroughs in fuel-cell technology that may replace internal combustion.

I love this idea, yet many in leadership see this as impractical and cannot make a business case for this kind of hire. Once again, using a contractor may be more appropriate. Bring them on staff after they have proved their worth.

Keep creative types away from customers, critics–and anyone focused only on money. Sequestered in basement offices, Data General’s “MicroKids” designed a minicomputer better and faster than if they had worked under critics’ and bosses’ eyes.

I write a lot about team work and it’s value to an organization. A team-based organization utilizes a lot of the ideas listed from this HBR article. In this instance, a team, out from under the micromanagement of their boss, was able to be more innovative, creative, and productive. Go figure.

Risky projects’ odds of succeeding increase with wholehearted commitment. Therefore, back projects that have the most dedicated, persuasive heretics on board. You can’t eliminate risk entirely, but you can ensure new ideas aren’t biased by knowledge of past successes.

Here is a huge cultural issue in many companies. Because of protecting the bottom line, business after business will shy away from perceived risky projects. They see it as a loss. The reality is, every project is risky. What may have been your bread-and-butter products and services can change very quickly in today’s business world. Embrace change.

Due to the current trends in business, I would not suggest hiring the kinds of individuals mentioned by Harvard Business. I would, however, recommend contracting them. This generation of contractors likes the flexibility and change of environments. Company leaders will like the idea of not having to commit to these weird ideas while they “test the waters” of change. In the long run, hiring may prove itself to be the best decision. Time will tell.

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