REBEL WITH A CAUSE

Employer, meet disruptive talent

If you want your firm miles ahead, you'll need a different kind of talent.

In Summary
  • They may not like rulebooks nor can they conform but they understand which boundaries are important, which lines not to cross.
  • They are rebels with a cause and when placed in the right, supportive environment, disruptive talent will find new and better ways to deliver business success.
A file photo of Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson.
A file photo of Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson.
Image: REUTERS

Dear employer, allow me to introduce to you a special kind of employee. He is not easy to work with. Many find him maddening. But if you hire him, make room for him in your organisation; your company will be the better for it, probably even be number one – if you want it.

What is this special employee’s name, you ask? They call him, disruptive talent. ‘Disruptive Talent’ is a term coined by Organisation Effectiveness Cambridge (OE Cam), and they characterise ‘disruptive talent’ as a provocative breed of talented, innovative and courageous individuals who have a predilection for rejecting conventionalism.

Martyn Sakol of OE Cam defines disruptive talent as ‘individuals who think and act different, innovate, challenge conventional wisdom, spot trends, see commercial opportunities and tenaciously find ways to achieve success.’

A well-known individual, Sir Richard Branson, counts himself as disruptive talent, and in a BBC interview on this subject he once said that if he were a member of staff at another business, his line manager would have to “accept that I might not do things exactly as he’d like me to do them.”

That’s disruptive talent; they’ll always ask very different questions, look at things from a very different perspective, and are persistent at achieving the outcomes they want. Naturally independent and unorthodox, disruptive talents are rebellious, stubborn, and single-minded in their relentless pursuit of their goals.

Sir Branson would like to see more companies hire independently minded, rule-breaking, stubborn people like himself. His argument is the ideas and drive such mavericks bring to a business far outweigh the migraines they cause to management and other staff.

This makes them a challenge to manage in a typical workplace. When disruptive talent find themselves in a large organisation, they simply cannot adapt and fit within corporate structures and boundaries, and their quirkiness tends to vex existing employees, which often leads to friction.

It might start to sound like disruptive talent is every manager’s idea of a nightmare member of staff. But Sir Branson would like to see more companies hire independently minded, rule-breaking, stubborn people like himself. His argument is the ideas and drive such mavericks bring to a business far outweigh the migraines they cause to management and other staff.

Disruptive talents are not delinquents. They’re not loose cannons out to intentionally cause mayhem. They’re free spirits with a mission, an intense focus and an insatiable appetite to create something new. They may not like rulebooks nor can they conform but they understand which boundaries are important, which lines not to cross. They are rebels with a cause and when placed in the right, supportive environment, disruptive talent will find new and better ways to deliver business success.

The trick to disruptive talent management is to not integrate them as such but rather manage them differently and separately but with everyone (disruptive talent and normal employees), working towards set common goals.

Sir Branson suggests that if organisations could look after, make room for, respect and accept disruptive talent like him, making the most of this brilliant but challenging talent, then they’ll have gained a creative force to drive innovation, instead of a competing entrepreneur working against them.

A majority of employees are wired to fit in, to follow norms, maintain harmony and not take risks. But if you’re after that ‘big idea’, if you want your organisation miles ahead of competitors, then you’ll need a different kind of talent – the kind you’ve just now met in this article.