The maverick mantra

CIOs tell me that their biggest problem isn’t business-IT alignment or managing change. It’s people — the recruiting, rousing, retaining bit. And, then there’s the need to do more — a whole lot more; a whole lot different, with a whole lot less.

So, who are the kind of people you hire? Let me guess, you like fast learners; people you can vibe with; those who will blend in with the rest of the team and get along with colleagues; who are in sync with the organization’s culture; people whom you can trust to do the right thing.

These people will conform to the norm, but in doing so will they dare to think and act differently?

Prof. Robert Sutton of Stanford University puts forward an interesting thought on how to foster innovation in your team.

In his book, Weird Ideas That Work, the good professor observes that practices that support innovative work are nearly the exact opposite of what most managers believe is good management.

He suggests that the way out is to hire people you dislike, who make you uncomfortable, who’re rude, defy authority and undermine the prevailing culture.

He states unequivocally that more innovation occurs when more people don’t know the ‘organizational code’. And why is that? Because he feels that when people don’t know the code, they draw on past individual experience or invent new methods. Thus, hiring more people who are slow to learn the ‘code’ will increase the range of ideas.

If that wasn’t disruptive enough, Prof. Sutton believes that employees generate more ideas when team leaders devote less attention to them and allow them to act without getting permission first. He, in fact, recommends a reward for creative insubordination. For instance, in the Sixties, many HP managers, including David Packard, told Charles House to stop working on the oscilloscope project. He didn’t. The product became such a big success that House was awarded a medal by Packard for ‘extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the normal call of engineering’. High praise indeed.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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