In the third of my articles on Disruptive Talent*, I explore the importance of thinking through the collective effectiveness of teams. A tweet prompted me to watch the classic TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson on the learning revolution. Sir Ken talks about how “human communities depend upon a diversity of talent, not a single conception of ability“. We need to invest more time in uncovering natural talent, celebrating diversity, feeding individual passion and creating the right conditions in which talent can flourish.
Getting the conditions right is even more important for Disruptive Talent. Selecting a skilled individual without considering the make-up of their intended team, risks the possibility that the group will not be able to accommodate the Disruptive Talent, potentially preventing the team from meeting its objectives. This can happen where the team lacks the broader range of skills needed for it to work well with the unconventional nature of Disruptive Talent, where tasks are not assigned to those best placed to carry them out, or where personalities clash in detrimental ways. Assessment can be used to prevent or fix many of these problems, while team development programmes can increase cooperation, efficiency and productivity.
General Skills: The Crucial Ingredient
An effective team needs a mix of abilities that go beyond specialist knowledge – such as being able to relate well to others, make decisions, collect and utilise data and organise team members and projects. It is unusual to find all the necessary general skills in one person which is why it is essential to make sure that combined, the abilities of those within the group fulfill these requirements. For example, an operations team will need those who get projects started well and those that complete them, those with attention to detail and those who see beyond the tried and tested ways of doing things. Missing any of these will harm the group’s ability to work effectively. When employing Disruptive Talent, this balancing act is even more important. A particularly brilliant innovator, for example, may have sub par organisational skills. A highly focused engineer may struggle with the interpersonal skills needed to keep lines of communication open between her department and those she needs to coordinate with. In order to maximize the effectiveness of such individuals it is necessary to build teams around them consisting of people with the right skill-sets to support their work and compensate for their weaknesses.
OE Cam uses psychometric assessment at the point where teams are being assembled in order to prevent the problem of incomplete skill sets. For example, we are currently working with a division of a FTSE 100 organisation that has identified new products and services but struggled to find individuals who could take on the challenge of developing the ideas and taking them to market. We assessed all the candidates to identify the best and most suitable disruptive talent. We then build teams around these people to ensure they could focus on playing to their strengths, while others around them had capabilities that compensated for their weaknesses.
Personal Preferences: The Key to Individual and Team Effectiveness
Even where members of a team do collectively possess all the right skills to complement the Disruptive Talent, each person will have preferences for what they like to do. People tend to work best when doing tasks that align with their preferences. While someone may be able to carry out inspections, they may find this work tedious, preferring to work on the development side of projects. Where feasible, it is much more effective for an organisation to assign tasks according to preferences since individuals will be more likely to work harder, faster and with more passion than when they are doing things they do not enjoy. The unmotivated worker can often drag a team down with their slow pace of work and lack of enthusiasm. Psychometric assessment along with other tools, can help build a team where, from the outset, the necessary skills are in place and are being carried out by those team members best suited to them.
OE Cam and Disruptive Talent
At OE Cam we have a unique approach to assessing disruptive talent that blends a range of exercises that have been specifically developed to identify disruptive talent and where those individuals may derail. We apply this approach at the start of disruptive talent programmes and when introducing disruptive talent to organisations. Our research clearly shows that when new disruptive talent is not managed effectively, the old order will try to kill it off and the individual or individuals who have been brought in will then generally fail to deliver the added value. For that reason just selecting the right disruptive talent is only one step in a successful disruptive talent programme and getting the right team is a critical part of that process.
* ‘Disruptive Talent’ is the term used by OE Cam to define highly gifted individuals whose out-of-the-box thinking and behaviour disrupts existing working structures and/or traditional markets, giving those who employ them a competitive edge. OE Cam has been using psychometric assessment along with in-depth interviews carried out by specialist business psychologists to distinguish between those who have truly remarkable ability and those who are just plain ‘disruptive’.