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Jeremy Zawodny's tips for helping your employees to stay clear of innovation

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( Source: Fast Company, January 2002, page 54 )

If you want to fill your company with great ideas, fill it with great people. And that, according to Stanford professor Robert Sutton, means welcoming weird people. Here are 5 1/2 ways to do it.

Want Innovation? 5 1/2 Weird Practices That Work

If you want to fill your company with great ideas, fill it with great people. And that, according to Stanford professor Robert Sutton, means welcoming weird people. Here are 5 1/2 ways to do it.

Weird Idea #1. Hire slow learners of the organizational code. Specifically, hire people with a special kind of stupidity or stubbornness -- who avoid, ignore, or reject how things are "supposed to be done around here." Surround those slow learners with fast learners who understand how to promote their creative ideas.

Weird Idea #1 1/2. Hire people who make you uncomfortable -- even those whom you dislike. Once you've hired people who prompt discomfort, take extra care to listen to their ideas.

Weird Idea #2. Hire people whom you ( probably ) don't need. Interview and occasionally hire interesting or strange people with skills that your company doesn't need at the moment -- and might never need. Then ask them how they can help you. You might be surprised.

Weird Idea #3. Use job interviews to get new ideas, not just to screen candidates. Job interviews are a weak way to select employees. Still, there is a little-known benefit: They provide the opportunity to learn something new. Give job candidates problems that you can't solve. Listen as much as you can. Talk as little as you can.

Weird Idea #4. Encourage people to ignore superiors and peers. Hire defiant outsiders. Rather than teaching newcomers about company history or procedure, have the newcomers teach the old-timers how to think and act. Encourage people to drive you crazy by doing what they think is right rather than what they are told.

Weird Idea #5. Find happy people, and let them fight. If you want innovation, you need upbeat people who know the right way to battle. Avoid conflict during the earliest stages of the creative process, but encourage people to fight over ideas in the intermediate stages.

Source: Fast Company, January 2002, page 54


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