3 tips for delivering innovation through disruptive talent

Written by
Stephanie Garforth

20 Jan 2016

20 Jan 2016 • by Stephanie Garforth

It’s easy to assume that high performers will be the ones to create value in the business. However, when organisations are chasing the latest ‘big idea’ to be one step ahead of competitors, a different kind of talent is required.  The majority of us are wired to fit in, to follow norms, maintain harmony and not take risks. But the ability to drive a radical kind of change requires the remarkable minds of those who we at OE Cam have termed ‘disruptive talent’.

People who are a ‘disruptive talent’ think outside the box and provocatively challenge conventional wisdom to adopt new approaches and see commercial opportunities that others don’t see. When placed in the right supportive environment, they will relentlessly and tenaciously find new and better ways to deliver business success.

However, whilst ‘disruptive t’ has the potential to develop game-changing business ideas, they can be a challenge to work with and integrate within the organisation. The characteristics that give them their strength can also be the source of their unproductive or derailing behaviours. For example, a senior manager who loves to challenge the status quo is likely to be intolerant of the more accommodating approaches of others and may berate colleagues or refuse to cooperate with them. The single-minded focus that helps a brilliant engineer solve complex problems, might also make them oblivious to the needs and learning styles of their co-workers, acting in ways that may frustrate and upset them.  

The way in which organisations innovate through ‘disruptive talent’ is by creating tailored, integrated programmes to ensure that these individuals are supported in the right environment with the right approach, and that their derailers are anticipated and managed effectively.

1. Develop individual effectiveness

The first strand of a disruptive talent programme involves providing individual support through coaching to help address the risks and maximise personal effectiveness. ‘Disruptive talent’ will always ask very different questions, look at things from a different perspective and are persistent at achieving the outcomes they want. Coaching is a key mechanism for keeping such individuals focused on the right things and ensuring their potentially negative impact on others is managed.

2. Create an effective team environment

The second strand of a disruptive talent programme involves ensuring the right team composition in terms of capability, skills and personality. As with traditional talent, you would assess individuals’ capabilities then work with HR departments and managers to ensure complementary skills within teams. For example, ‘disruptive talent’ passionately and tenaciously pursue unconventional thinking, which could benefit from action oriented ‘doers’ to buckle them down from running away with ideas. In consideration of the characteristics of ‘disruptive talent’, you need to carefully position colleagues around them who are conventional enough to challenge their ideas but unconventional enough to collaborate with them. This deliberate act of putting together teams of people who think and behave differently from each other can cause the team dynamics to derail effectiveness. 

3. Lead the right cultural environment

Leaders set the direction, style and tone for the organisation and condone patterns of acceptable behaviour. Therefore, the third strand involves working with the leadership to foster an environment that harnesses the collective power of ‘disruptive talent’ and their teams. Leaders need to reinforce cross-collaboration and create opportunities for external experiences to encourage individuals to think differently and ambitiously.  

Rather than pressurising ‘disruptive talent’ to conform, leaders must enforce a culture of trust, openness and space where individuals are valued for who they are and comfortable to express their views to allow them to respond authentically.