Why we need to hire nutters, pirates and positive deviants to succeed

Why we need to hire nutters, pirates and positive deviants to succeed

If you want your company to beat the competition and be the place the best clients and people want to be in – then make sure you’re hiring black sheep. And sometimes be a black sheep yourself. Here’s why.

Too often we hire clones — worthy clones: hard working, ambitious, disciplined, compliant, well educated, often trained and proven in a competitive firm, appropriately groomed, etc. You know the story. Just look around you. Look at yourself perhaps.

To really succeed in a fast changing world where rules of old are being broken every day — as a business or as an executive striving for the most vibrant of career — we have to resist the usual and be brave.

“Our business needs massive transfusions of talent. And talent, I believe, is most likely to be found among non-conformists, dissenters and rebels.” So wrote David Ogilvy in “Confessions of An Advertising Man.”

Tom Peters puts it another way in encouraging us to ‘do it differently.’ The story he tells goes something like this. “Most people who want a career on the high seas join the navy. White uniforms, nice caps, salute the flag…” Don’t!! If you want a career on the high seas, be a pirate instead!”

I LOVE THIS IDEA. Be a pirate! A friendly pirate — where the skull and crossbones are still in the company colours — but a pirate none the less. Taking risk, living on the edge a little sometimes, flaunting rules on occasion, laughing loudly as the wind lashes your face and your pursuers drift into the distance behind you. I want to hire people like this.

Miles Young, the global CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, told us to “Hire more nutters.” “Is a nutter the same as a pirate?” I asked him over a cocktail one night at the Zeta Bar in Sydney. “No,” he said. “They’re different. But they serve the same purpose. Nutters think totally differently to us. They come at things from a very different perspective. Pirates are on the same wavelength, but do it their way and with their rules.”

Positive deviants” is another way I have heard this rare type described. Tony Blair in his autobiography describes them as ‘crazy people.’ “In my experience, there are two types of crazy people: those who are just crazy, and therefore dangerous; and those whose craziness lends them creativity, strength and ingenuity and verve.”

Whether a non-conformist, dissenter, rebel, pirate, nutter, positive deviant or a Blair ‘crazy’, make sure your team has a solid sprinkling of them. They will fuel your ideas, thinking, momentum and competitive edge, and quite simply, make your business a winner. And make sure you have a dose of this magic on occasion. It will take you to positive places in your career you never thought you’d get to.


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