What Happens When Your Disruptors Get Too Disruptive?

The business landscape of today is defined by one thing: volatility. We’ve seen it played out over and over-from Blockbuster to Kodak-one moment you’re a Goliath, the next a four team startup has made the very thing you do redundant.
In order to survive, modern organisation’s are focusing on being agile and innovative, to adapt and change with the volatility around them.
But, a culture of agility and innovation doesn’t just happen. We not only have to identify and recruit true innovative talent, but know how to manage them once they’re through the door.

So how do you recognise an innovative candidate, and once you have them,  how do you manage their disruptive nature?

I took this question to my favourite brain trust, Mr Kevin Wheeler and Dr John Sullivan, who discussed what leading innovative organisations do to find and manage the innovative talent they seek.


What Happens When Your Disruptors Get Too Disruptive?


You’re Can’t Handle Innovation.


“We say we want diversity, but diversity means they’re different, they’re disruptive, they’re going to say no don’t do it that way.”

So when you hire fit, you actually beat diversity people and innovators to death, because they don’t fit and by definition, an innovator is different. You have to learn to celebrate it.


How Google And Facebook Manage Innovators

“One of the things we’ve found at both Google and Facebook was that they would say “you’re a little strange, why don’t you pick your own manager?”.

Well it turns out that if you pick your own manager all of the issues around the manager go away because you picked them, and you picked someone who likes your approach.

“So simple things like asking “how would you like to be managed”, “if you were your own manager how would you do it?”, sometimes they pick their own team. Guess what? I’d pick Kevin. If we don’t get along, even if we don’t agree we would skill learn to work together because we’re both disruptors.”

Yahoo’s Mistake

“Yahoo built a brick house and put all their disruptors there, because they would disrupt the rest of the people but that’s a mistake.”

You want them to go around, you want them to say “Trevor that is so last year” or “that’s embarrassingly old” and so that’s part of their value, that they say “there’s a new thing to doing things” and people catch onto them.


340x_20-p-timeBuilding Power Through Excitment

“If you look at the Google model, people are attracted to an innovator and decide to spend their 20% time to join them and they form a force. It builds.

Nobody assigns them power, they build power through the excitement of their ideas.


Must Love Innovation

“There are people in the world -Kevin and I being some- who love innovation. If you say we’re going to do accounting I’m not interested. The excitement draws people and of course they’re brand new so there’s going to be new learning, and people who want to learn are going to want to hang around people like that.”

ROI Of An Innovator 

“Hiring innovators to me is the highest ROI of anything you can do in recruiting. Unfortunately, one of the data points we found when we did this work for Google was that innovators do not use the term innovator or innovators in their resume. If you put that word in your resume, you are not an innovator.”

How Kevin Spots An Innovator


kevinWhat Have You Done?

“I think someone who has done something independently, someone who has done something radically different, who has taken a different approach to life. I think Google and others used to look for those kinds of things.”
“People who were in College and built their own Airplane, or somebody who designed an robot when they were twelve years old and figured out how to do it.”

Someone who shows initiative, who shows curiosity, has gone and done something that other people like them haven’t done, that’s to me one sign of being an innovator. Someone who can answer your questions, and think outside the box.


How John Spots An Innovator


Give Them A Problem


“Give them a problem that you’ve given it to 99 engineers and their solutions fits into this box. An innovator by definition is a disruptor and guess what, they obsolete the current approach. So when you ask an innovator, their answer won’t be just a little a little outside the box, it’ll be way outside, and if it works it will obsolete what you do now.”

That’s what an innovator is. It’s not a 10% improvement or six sigma, it’s obsolete is what you do.

“I tell them in advance that I’m going to ask you this question and think about it. Innovation doesn’t have to come in 5 mins, it may a day or 2 days.”
“Then I would do what [Kevin] did, and ask them to tell me a time in their past where you came up with an idea, not that was new- and ideas suck- implemented ideas that worked and obsoleted what we do now.”

What Do You Do In Your Spare Time?

“It’s one of the big factors of several innovative companies I know, is that they ask you not where you went to College but they ask what have you done, what did you do in high school, what are your hobbies, what do you love to do, what do you do in your spare time.”

“The people who come up with the odd ball weird things that they did, those are clearly people who think outside the box. They’re probably innovative and creative.”


If you want to learn how to improve your branding, marketing and engagement to recruit more innovators, join your peers at  ATC2015 in Sydney. Limited spots are still available, here.

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