Disruptive Talent. Spot it. Manage it. Take Advantage.

Earlier this week, I read an article in which Sir Richard Branson talks about how much of a pain in the arse he would be as an employer to another company. Why? Because of his love of doing things differently, against the book, and his complete lack of fear. He is a text book example of Disruptive Talent.

However, Sir Richard adds that the metaphorical company in question would still need “to be nice to me”, despite the disruption he would inevitably cause.

He says he’d tell them: “If you don’t deal with me well, I’m going to go off and set up my own business and I’ll end up competing with you.”

He’d say: “Look after me, respect me, and accept that I’m a square peg in a round hole.”

While Sir Richard might sound like many managers’ idea of a nightmare member of staff, he wants companies – of all sizes – to hire more independently minded, rule-breaking, stubborn people like himself. His argument is that the new ideas and drive that such mavericks bring to a business far outweigh the fact they may often be difficult to work with.

How do you define “Disruptive Talent”?

Identifying disruptive people in the workplace is easy. However, defining your disruptive talent takes a little more deeper digging.

Martyn Sakol, managing partner of OE Cam, defines disruptive talent as “those who think and act differently, are innovative, challenge conventional wisdom, spot trends, see commercial opportunities, and find ways to achieve success, whatever the cost. He also notes that these individuals require robust management, to prevent things from going wrong and upsetting the apple cart”.

“Disruptive talent can derail, therefore you need to make sure employees are properly supported, both when they’re working individually, and as part of a team.”

Take a look around your office. If, like me, your workplace is made up of a millennial generation (if you’ve been reading my blogs you should know what they are by now, those people born between 1983 and 2003), then its likely there are one or two of these people in your office. It might even be you – don’t be ashamed of it, look where it got Richard.

Top tips for managing your disruptors.

So, we know what kind of personality traits these disruptive types have, how are you supposed to manage this person, while at the same time, keeping everyone else happy?

Challenges can arise from what motivates these talented individuals. That creative genius who feels enlivened by new challenges, might quickly get bored and take her talents elsewhere. The gifted designer driven by the act of creativity might divert resources to projects of personal interest over those that serve the organisation.

The above are examples of classic ‘derailing behaviors’ – and they can cause interruptions that take talented individuals off track, negatively impacting their teams and organisations. However, the fact that these risks exist should notdissuade an organisation from employing disruptive talent, but identifying the risks is the first step to managing them appropriately.

Simply put, you have to manage them completely differently to other employers. Not by giving them free reign, but by listening, and collaborating with them on these ideas, maximizing on their effectiveness, both individually and collectively.

You manage individuals differently, but with everyone working towards a set of common goals. Most importantly, it is vital that everyone is clear on what the company’s vision is, and then as a team you can succeed

So now your managing it, how do you capitalise on it?

Simple: Stop thinking and just do it!

Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet and Thomas Edison could have been simply anonymous people if they never got out of their chairs and tried. Disruptive talent, which ultimately leads to innovation is neither mythical, nor only for the most creative individuals. Anyone can become a wildly successful innovator once they conquer the fear of failure.

Help your staff overcome this fear. Motivate your employees to think freely and act on ideas, whether original or copies, to use disruptive talent to bring your company to new revenue, image and success levels.



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