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Seek Out the Square Pegs

Do you REALLY want people thinking "outside the box" in your organization? If so, what are you doing to find, support, and retain people who do?

The recent PwC survey of CEOs points out that "nearly a quarter of those surveyed singled out innovation as their top priority for the coming year, far outstripping other concerns such as human capital, competitiveness, customer experience, and even technological capabilities." So we all want innovation. But are we willing to have real innovators in our organizations?

That may seem like a silly question, but here's the thing: innovators are often people that don't fit. If you want different thinking, you need people that think differently.

To overcome the tendency to reject those that are different, we need to consciously seek out cultural "adds" rather than cultural "fits." Too often, fitting means thinking alike, and if two people think alike, then one of them is redundant.

It may not be easy for people of differing points of view to collaborate effectively. Diplomatic skills need to be trained throughout the organization, and those that aren't a part of the mainstream need some thick skin. But diversity of thought, with effective collaboration will pay off great innovative dividends.

Seek out people who share common values, and can sign up for serving a common mission, but don't get hung up on finding people whose personalities and experiences are all the same. Welcome people who are not part of the existing club, but who are able to add another layer of thought and perspective.

If you are a hiring manager, don't stop at hiring the "outsider," but ensure that you support and protect that outsider from the natural "corporate antibodies" that will try to make sure that the outsider is rejected.

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