Employ smart people who disagree with you

Employ smart people who disagree with you.

It’s probably an uncomfortable prospect for many leaders and at odds with traditional theories on how to guarantee team cohesion, productivity and, the holy grail: outcomes.

But the reality of not employing people who test your thinking is far worse.

This was the challenge from two impressive thought leaders at AMP’s annual innovation festival, Amplify – Frances Valintine and David Hansen.

Traditionally, leaders are told to lead from the front. At the same time, employees are encouraged to think that there must be a ‘sermon from the mount’ for information and ideas to be true. The problem with enforcing these views is that it can polarise your organisation – some people will be attracted to the leader and their views, but others will withdraw. 

Soon, leaders will find they’re only hearing from people who agree with them, and there’s one crucial business process that goes into hiding when that happens; something essential to corporate survival today:


The irony is that innovation will still happen to your organisation, but it will be done to you, not by you. 

Startlingly, 52 per cent of S&P Fortune 500 companies have gone bankrupt, been acquired or ceased to exist because of digital disruption . What’s more, the average age of a company used to be 65 years. Now it’s 14 years.*

It’s called disruption. A ruthless and increasingly common form of innovation that doesn’t care about your company’s legacy or claim to a certain product or service. Disruption simply wants to make things better, faster, cheaper and easier, and often it will come from where you least expect it; someone who doesn’t even operate in your industry.

One way to accept this changing landscape is simply being open to thinking and leading differently. 

Some ideas to get you started:

  • Understand your intent, not your strategy, and share it. Help people know what you’re aiming for.
  • Hierarchical structures are becoming less acceptable. Leaders aren’t always the experts.
  • Little experiments can often be more effective than the ‘big answer’. Be comfortable with uncertainty.
  • Our workforce is getting younger. They want connectivity, creativity, collaboration and entrepreneurship. 

After all, what’s the point of having talent in an organisation if you’re not using it?

*Constellation Research, Dominating Digital Business Disruption in 2014

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