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Spotting Transformers - A HR Practitioner's cheat sheet

While it is clear that transformational thinking is at the root of innovation and success, it is not a skill that is commonly available. HR has to be smart to identify and nurture these 'outliers' in the system.

Businessdictionary.com defines Transformation in an organizational context as, "a process of profound and radical change that orients an organization in a new direction and takes it to an entirely different level of effectiveness. Unlike 'turnaround' (which implies incremental progress on the same plane) transformation implies a basic change of character and little or no resemblance with the past configuration or structure."

So, Transformation has to be radical. It has to be new. Its results have to be exponential. And all this should NOT resemble the past. So we are talking about a whole new future. Here is the dilemma. Human beings are not trained to think back from the future. We are designed to think forward from the past. We are trained to project a future based on what we know about the past. And our brain is an instrument that is designed to help us survive. So it almost always thinks of things that are risk free and comfortable. So when people are asked to transform business, they start to analyze almost automatically and come with imitations of what worked in the past.

So transformation calls for a whole new paradigm of thinking that is not common. This probably explains why there are so few successful business transformations today. Take any visionary - whether it is Kennedy imploring scientists to put people on the Moon, or Steve Jobs inventing a market for digital music, or Gandhi conceiving a non-violent struggle, or Google suggesting unlimited storage on your Inbox. They all could not have relied solely on the past for evaluating their idea's feasibility or potential success.

While it is clear that transformational thinking is at the root of innovation and success, it is not a skill that is commonly available. HR has to be smart to identify and nurture these 'outliers' in the system. How can HR play a role in hiring and nurturing Transformational Thinkers? And how do you know a transformational thinker from a normal one when you talk to them?

Here are few simple and practical pointers that I wanted to share from personal experience.

  • Transformation thinkers have more future orientation in their conversations. They have something to look forward to all the time. There is a certain positive restlessness  around them. You will notice this in the first five minutes of your conversation with them. You will notice this because these types of conversations are usually rare.
  • They may not be positive thinkers, but are possibility thinkers; They tell you what is possible even in the most difficult of situations. A possibility is grounded in reality and not wishful thinking. They have a great relation with data and reality. They look for missing opportunities in data and in the real world.
  • They often use the language of a sportsman or a scientist. They are either 'playing' or 'experimenting' most of the time. In both cases, they have a great relationship with failures. They do not spend too much in the fail modes. They rebound easily. They often can go beyond praise or criticism and focus on what is important.
  • They are non-conformists. They are willing to bend the rules within reasonable limits to try out something new. They most often have an unusual hobby.
  • They are adventurous. They more often are ready to ask for an apology than for permissions.
  • They are not superficial. They go beyond the first acceptable answer they get. They are creators. They construct an idea, then give it attributes and then look for fulfilling them.
  • They are great inspirers. They can often make another person see something new that he/she has not seen otherwise. They themselves get easily inspired. They are collaborators. They seek ideas everywhere and get easily inspired themselves. They multiply ideas rather than divide them. They keep looking for ideas in the most unusual places. They see patterns where others don't.

I am sure you would have come across these kinds of people, and when you do, you know you have a winner on your hands. Retain them and give them your transformational work. Your chances of success will be higher.


Good read - Thank you for the insights

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