This May Be the Biggest Pay Off in a Competitive Advantage: Hire a Non-Conformist

hire a non conformist

Hire a non-conformist. Why? Adam Grant, Wharton’s prolific professor, explains it’s imperative to have off-beat thinkers and doers on a company’s team. In an interview with First Round Capital, Grant outlines why it’s a strategic move for companies to hire “originals”.

What is an “original”? According to Grant, originals are “people who go beyond dreaming up the ideas and take initiative to make their visions a reality”. Sometimes to get things done, they may step on a few toes.

What’s so special about non-conformists within a company? They may annoy middle management, but they prove valuable to founders with their innovative solutions. They are trying to push the envelope; they disagree and voice their dissent.

Wait, why does a company need dissenters? Shouldn’t we make sure people fit into our “company culture”?

Grant explains how, because company hires closely resemble the personality and traits of the founders, it’s extra important to hire people with different work DNA. When similar people are recruited and retained by a company, the innovation muscle begins to atrophy, slackening with its homogeneity. For companies, innovation occurs when a culture receives new counterpoints, aka originals.

Grant states, “If you’re five or 500 people, hire as many originals as you can. Yes, there are risks of hiring too many originals — but it’s even riskier to hire too few.” Hiring managers need to work with department heads in talking openly about incorporating a few dissenters in their midst. For business owners, begin thinking of rules or rituals that encourages behavior that fosters creative tension.

What are the first steps of creating an “Originals-Welcome” work place?

1. Embed a healthy dose of resistance to create a resilient environment.

Everyone talks of “culture” at a company; it’s often a direct imprint of the founders. It’s important for commonality and camaraderie to exist amongst a team, but just enough resistance can actually keep teams in good health. Encourage teams to challenge their managers. Train managers to accept and foster exchange when doing projects. If this a complete company overhaul, reframe the mission statement and company values. Make a culture of healthy dissent a priority, then present it to employees to discuss. What are the rules or ideas they have that would foster a company that prioritizes dissent?

non-conformist flower

2. Forecast where the market is moving.

If team members have values that are too similar, this may internalize to become group think, promoting a loss of diversity in strategic thinking. If the market moves—and it always does—in ways a team was not suspecting, there will be a lack of innovative solutions. Bring in originals that can spot potential blind spots and offer different approaches.

3. Watch this video

As a Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author, Grant has lectured all over the world. One of his best talks in how to champion original though can be found below.

It’s time to change

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