Mike raises an important point. In today’s era of hiring for cultural fit or, more in my world, recognizing and rewarding employees who live your core values (which are the hallmarks of your culture), perhaps we exclude too quickly those who are not a culture fit. Referring to research by Stephen Millett, Mike discusses how a culture, over time, can become too closed to change, too focused on maintaining the status quo. And that can be harmful because the world itself and the needs of the customer are constantly changing. Hence, the need for the disruptor.
There’s an angle I agree with here, in that we can all become wedded to “the way we do things around here” (the definition of culture), causing us to forgo innovation and miss opportunities along the way. Why, then, do we discount, disqualify or flat out fire (or refuse to hire) the disruptors?
There are many reasons, not least of which is the natural human response of fear to change or perceived change. Also, disruptors often couch their ideas in less than ideal terms, perhaps being perceived as bullies or worse. It’s easier to grease the wheel by removing the disruptor than it is to find out why the wheel was squeaking in the first place.
A Culture that Rewards the Disruptor
Clearly, a balance is needed. Fortunately this can be achieved by fostering a culture in which constant pushing of the boundaries is desired and expected. To create this culture, begin by ensuring disruptors are recognized and rewarded for bringing their creativity, perspective and insight.
A caution, however – while rewarding disruptors for ideas that change the game is needed, avoiding a culture that encourages the less savory antics of poor presentation of these ideas is a must. Rudeness is never a behavior to be encouraged, praised or rewarded.
This spotlights the delicate balance between recognizing and rewarding the “how” (the way in which results are achieved) as well as the “what” (the results). Focusing only on the “what” leads to ENRON, AIG and a whole host of other examples of the end outweighing the means. By making the “how” just as important in terms of what the organization recognizes and rewards, leadership gains much better control over a healthy, supportive, positive culture that still encourages innovation, questioning and – yes – disruption.
Are disruptors rewarded in your organization? Are you a disruptor?
As Globoforce’s Head of Strategic Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. His articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.