Hiring for Disruptive Growth

Here is an excellent article arguing that maybe managers with the "right stuff" aren't always the ones to hire. Part of the reason is because, as the mutual fund ads say, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

We suspect that the mistakes happen when firms choose managers at any level-from CEO to business unit head to project manager-based on what we call "right stuff" thinking, borrowing the term from Tom Wolfe's famous book and the 1983 movie of the same name. Many search committees and hiring executives classify candidates by right-stuff attributes. They assume that successful managers can be identified using phrases such as "good communicator," "results oriented," "decisive," and "good people skills." They often look for an uninterrupted string of past successes to predict that more successes are in store. The theory in use is that if you find someone with a track record and with the right-stuff attributes, then he or she can successfully manage the new business venture. But in the parlance of this book, right-stuff thinking gets the categories wrong.

Most companies won't do this for one simple reason – it takes too much time. In my limited experience, most companies don't hire very well because they look for the wrong things – the quick and easy things. I have always believed the Southwest adage "hire for attitude, train for skill." I think it can apply to most positions. The hiring practices of most companies, though, penalize people for failure (when it could be a great experience for them), reject iconoclasts (can't have anyone questioning the way things are done around here), and ignore valuable experience outside of their industry (because we all know no good idea ever came from another industry or a new perspective, right?). The way companies hire affects the way people try to present themselves and the experiences they try to pursue. So if a certain skill set helps you get hired (even if the hiring is a bad decision) more people will try to acquire that skill set. I'm getting off topic, but go read the article – it's very good.

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