“You can’t pile together enough good people to make a great one.”
–– Bob Taylor, Founder and Associate Manager of Xerox PARC
Below is a post that I wrote a few years back (on my old blog) when I was still in the corporate realm doing recruiting consulting. I stumbled upon it earlier this week, and figured I’d re-post it here for those of you guys either hunting for talent or hunting for jobs. Hope this ignites some thoughts…
If you’ve had the pleasure (or displeasure) of reading some of my blog postings, you’ll know by now that I’m a big fan of revolution in the HR world. In a previous rant, I railed against organizations that insist on finding “perfect” candidates that fit their detailed job descriptions. The problem, I said, was that sometimes the perfect candidate doesn’t always “fit” what you laid out in the job description. In this entry, I’m expanding on that thought.
There’s always one thing that’s constantly running through my head as I interview or evaluate people for job opportunities: do they have talent that is capable of creating something remarkable for this organization?
Because of this, there are times when I look for things outside the ordinary in people’s resumes, web sites, interviews, or whatever else I come across. In other words, I try to see if there is anything UN-usual about them.
It can be anything. I once read about a guy who wrote on his resume, “I created the world’s largest chocolate chip cookie and got listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.” While most people scanning this phrase might chuckle internally, they would never seriously take note of an accomplishment like this as indication that perhaps this person might be on to something even better than the world’s largest cookie.
But I do.
Why? I firmly believe that it’s the highly UN-usual people that create spectacular things for organizations. So while recruiters and HR people can roll their eyes at candidates who on the surface seem weird, I think that they’re missing out on some potentially outstanding talent.
Take Dennis Rodman, a former NBA player (I won’t go into the specifics, because most of you should know who he is. And if you don’t, just click on his name and read up). By most definitions, he was UN-usual. So much so, in fact, that people often ridiculed the way he presented himself on and off the court. While most people can’t argue with his effectiveness on the court (he once averaged a sickening 18.7 rebounds for a season), his UN-usual nature often made people question his talent compared to other greats.
But Rodman’s former coach, Phil Jackson, made an interesting point once about his ex-player. Jackson remarked, “[Rodman] has reached a heart space with members of the team I’d never anticipated. Dennis has been a real blessing for us, because he’s like a heyoka.” Jackson went on to explain that among the Lakota people a heyoka “was a cross-dresser, a unique person –– respected because he brought a reality change whenever you saw him.”
Sure, this example is about someone in the NBA. But how does this come to life in the business world? Let’s take a look at some examples:
Stephen Gillett, Senior Director of Engineering Operations, Yahoo! –– Aside from his skill qualifications, Gillett credits his hire to a realm that most corporate recruiters would shy away from: online role-playing games. As one of the top guild masters for the World of Warcraft game, Gillett credits his leadership prowess to his position as virtual guild master.
Jonathan Keats, Artist, Hotel des Arts –– Some people would have laughed at giving Keats a chance. But Hotel des Arts’ John Doffing saw something in Keats’ proposal to set up a camera that takes one long continuous shot (over 100 years) in order to capture time on film. Yes, you read that right. While a US scientific outpost in Antarctica summarily rejected Keats’ idea as “silly,” Doffing embraced the idea and allowed Keats to set up his camera inside one of the rooms at the Hotel.
If you were a recruiter, would you have gone after these people knowing these things? Would you have associated Stephen Gillett’s status as guild master to the ability to lead people on virtual networks? Would you have gone after Keats’ camera because you thought it would be an attraction for your hotel? Sadly, my guess is that not many people would have looked beyond their resumes and “credentials.”
But the fact is, the people I just mentioned are heyokas. Their ideas brought a reality change to their respective organizations. And that’s what you need if you want to survive in this ever-changing business climate.
So the next time you see someone unusual, ask yourself if they might be a heyoka. Then, flip it around and ask yourself: am I one? Are you creating reality changes in your organization? It’s not always bad being the unusual one…you might just be on your way to creating something remarkable.