Disruptive technology is a term used to define those technologies or products that completely transform an industry. The telephone, the personal computer, email, and cell phones are all great examples. These game-changing products and concepts don’t magically reveal themselves, however. They are brought about by innovative thinkers, or disruptors, who are particularly adept at seeing things from a different perspective, spotting hidden opportunities, challenging the status quo, and tapping into their unique vision to develop and execute new ideas.
In his book, The Master Switch, Tim Wu offers a fascinating account of one of North America’s original disruptors, the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell. According to Wu, it takes a special kind of personality to “scuttle a perfectly sound ship.” In Bell’s case, he was a true outsider. He wasn’t working for a telegraph company. He wasn’t even trying to improve the telegraph. This separation provided a distinct degree of distance from the industry he would eventually disrupt.
It takes an even stronger kind of confidence to propose a new product or concept that could completely obliterate your employer’s current business model. That is the “special sauce” that sets disruptive talent apart. It is the difference between the employee who stays focused on building a better car and the employee who proposes a solution where people no longer actually buy their own cars but instead get from Point A to Point B using a ride sharing service provided by a fleet of self-driving battery operated cars.
Disruptive thinkers are a unique breed of talent. Bringing them on board in a way that will allow them to do their best work and move your organization’s innovation agenda forward requires forethought. Here are a few questions to consider as you develop your organization’s strategy for recruiting and onboarding disruptive talent.
Question #1: Is your organization actually ready to welcome disruptive talent into the fold?
Getting your leadership team to agree that it’s time to bring in someone with bold new ideas is a pretty easy sell. Ensuring those same leaders are going to be supportive when a new employee begins proposing changes to the business that are a radical shift from what you’ve been doing is a completely different matter.
Question #2: Is there a chance your recruitment strategy could hinder your search for disruptive thinkers?
Once you’ve decided that your organization is indeed ready to take on the unique challenges of adding some disruptive talent to the team, it’s time to take a good look at your recruitment strategy. The characteristics and qualities that your organization traditionally seeks in candidates may not necessarily apply when you’re trying to find disruptive talent. Malcolm Gladwell, writer for The New Yorker, proposes that disruptors aren’t just creative thinkers who are conscientious enough to implement their big ideas; they are also typically disagreeable. True disrupters shake things up because they don’t require the approval of their peers to do what they believe is correct. They also aren’t concerned if everyone around them thinks they’re crazy! If your recruitment process weeds out candidates who aren’t team players and consensus seekers, you could be ruling out the very talent you’re trying to find.
Question #3: Does your organization have an onboarding strategy in place that will help set disruptive talent up for success?
Once you’ve hired disruptive talent, turning them loose on the organization without the proper support can be a recipe for disaster. Coaching is key and it should start with developing a personalized coaching strategy and individual development plan that reflects the unique needs of each disruptive thinker.
Question #4: Are your organizational values entrenched enough to set the course when big change rocks the boat?
Imagine the frustration a child would feel if they were told the sandbox they were playing in had no rules, but then were scolded each time they did something differently than the other children playing. Being told, “That’s not the way we do business here,” is a sure path to disengagement for your disruptive thinkers, but that doesn’t mean the sandbox shouldn’t have some operating guidelines.
If your company has defined its vision, mission, and values, are they engrained enough within your organizational culture to help guide decision making when a potentially disruptive decision is met with resistance? Are they clear enough to serve as a kind of “Magic 8 Ball” to help reach consensus on why or why not a potential game changer should be embraced?
Spending some time thinking about your company’s answers to these questions is a great first step in developing a disruptive talent recruitment strategy. Ian Martin’s experienced technical recruiters can also offer valuable insight into finding, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding disruptive talent. Connect with one of our Hiring Consultants today to find your next disruptive shaker-upper.
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