In a pickle over disruptive talent

Sir Richard Branson is a self-confessed “disruptive individual”, but how many employers would turn him down for a job?

He is one of the most recognisable and heralded business figures in the country, perhaps the world, but for many companies such a maverick character would not be a good fit.

Just as Sir Richard argues that, to start a successful business, one must be disruptive, such talent can be vital on the inside of an organisation, particularly in high-paced, competitive technology-based environments.

However, such disruptive talent can be very difficult to manage and is unlikely to easily fit into a business with strong conventions and procedures that are stringently upheld. They need to be allowed to “colour outside of the lines” – and you may want to prepare yourself for conventions to be broken and administration to be left undone.

I am sure we would all love someone with the creativity and drive of a Sir Richard Branson within their organisation, but many businesses simply are not suited to it and do not contain the right managerial skills to bring the best out of them.

Disruptive talent does not sit neatly into a team structure. The correct role must be found to accommodate their abilities and style, and they must be managed accordingly by someone who can allow their talent to flourish, whilst still achieving goals relevant to the company’s success. That’s no easy task.

Most organisations will benefit from people who offer such a challenge, who will not only identify existing strategic inflection points – those moments in the life of a business where there is an opportunity to make a change that will take it into a new phase of growth and innovation – but create them. After all, missing, or failing to create such points can lead to stagnation or even business failure.

So, if the managerial and organisational structure allows for an individual who thinks and acts differently, there are major benefits to be had from integrating them into the business. They can make the difference between a business that evolves and thrives and one that loses its way.

However, doing so should not be done lightly. The recruitment process would undoubtedly benefit from the inclusion of a good psychometric test, to better understand the person being brought in, allowing for those responsible for managing that individual to be best prepared for the task ahead.

In fact, a psychometric test of the prospective manager would also help to assess compatibility between the two.

It’s a difficult step to take, and one which will certainly enliven a business in more ways than one, but it can be worth every moment.

Sue Alderson is a director of Azure Consulting, a Yorkshire-based specialist in leadership development.