How can we attract game changing talent? The real size of the question.

There are people who chop through the digital transformation buzzword bingo that peppers our work lexicon these days. They inject a new reality into the aging mainframes of our organisations. Their persistence in hustling and rustling managers, rules and mindsets to achieve a vision extraordinaire, is admirable. We need them. They are the ones who can make … (at this point feel free to insert the buzzwords from your own organisation goals such as digital transformation, digital enablement, disruption, innovation, or ‘exponential, digital, social’ as I read about today) happen. So, naturally we ask, what can we do to attract these game changers to our organisation?

For a start, it is helpful that we have more clarity on the characteristics of game changers, thanks to 2015 research. They are big picture thinkers, creative and passionate idea generators, ambitious and driven to succeed. They also take risks. Where some see a glass half empty, for them it’s overflowing. They posses a creative imagination, a way of seeing things that you and I may not, as well as what psychologists have termed “productive obsessionality.” It is this last characteristic that provides them with the grit to keep on where others fall off. After all, it’s hard to change the status quo – tenacity is part of the reason many game changers can and do. This blueprint of their DNA helps to shed light on what is likely to make the game changer tick.

We assume we need to do ‘something’ to attract them, but they are not the type of talent that plugs and plays for cash, leadership titles or big projects to deliver. In fact, most of our organisations don’t have the sockets for game changers. They do not fit.

Game Changers challenge norms in pursuit of new realities. Difficult conversations are important for them, and organizational hierarchy typically not. A position of leadership may throw other responsibilities in the path, distractions that frustrate the dream they are trying realise. Bigger budgets and more people to manage do not necessarily feature in their plans, it’s the idea being realised that matters.

Paradoxically, it should strike you that the very qualities identified in the research into game changers, namely, imaginativeness (create the exceptional vision) and productive obsessionality (find a way to drive it through), mean it is likely that game changers do not need you. If you frustrate their efforts, they will likely find a way to do what they want to, without you. Some, in an obsessive pursuit of their vision, may just use you to push their agenda. Powers that pay service to relentless digital and innovation hype only with innovation labs, hubs, centres or cells (there’s another opportunity to add buzzords), I challenge, are not creating the type of enabled serendipity you need on a wider and more fundamental scale. We need more than the game changers and the hubs.

What if we said that what we really need, is a type of enabled serendipity in organisations, a flexibility, a pool of resource, the freedom to take a chance on something that might not work? We would need to accept that this may likely offset the neat cogs that drive what I hear described as “hard business”. How can we attract game changing talent is a big question and a larger challenge than perhaps most of us expect.

It is not only the game changer input we need, but rather a team of people enabled to deliver game changing outputs, with some room to wonder from delivering the hard business. We need to work out a different kind of socket, and build it. It’s probably a multi-plug, and the power source not exclusive to the organisation. To have a shot at building something significant, we need a big measure of courage to challenge our organisations on ‘the way things really get done around here’, and why. Put another way, who does this serve, and for how long?

If you haven’t read the book “Wellbeing Economy” by Prof of Political Economy at the University of Pretoria, Lorenzo Fioramunti, maybe now is a good time to do so.

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