How to hire ‘leapfroggers’

By Molly Hayman and Theresa Witham

Uncertainty, often viewed as a bad thing, can be a pivotal advantage in business, says Leapfrogging author Soren Kaplan, who will close CEO/Executive Team Network, Nov. 3-6 in San Diego. In this excerpt from his book, he explains how:

Leapfrogging is about changing the game—creating something new or doing something radically different that produces a significant leap forward. What you create or change can vary, but one thing remains constant: Individuals, groups, and organizations that leapfrog old ways of doing things often become the new leaders of the future.

Whether we’re in a large corporation or a start-up, just about everything we’re told about the right way to lead our organizations involves increasing predictability and maximizing control—from planning, forecasting, and managing human resources, to training and even managing innovation. Certainty is good. Uncertainty, ambiguity, and surprises are bad.

When it comes to the implication of all this for business, I think Gary Hamel said it best: “New problems demand new principles. Put bluntly, there’s simply no way to build tomorrow’s essential organizational capabilities—resilience, innovation and employee engagement—atop the scaffolding of twentieth century management principles.” In the same book he says, “In an age of wrenching change and hyper-competition, the most valuable human capabilities are precisely those that are least manageable.”

These two brief quotations propose something revolutionary: that we must embrace counterintuitive ideas that go against the grain of management and leadership as we know it if we are going to succeed in today’s whirlwind world.

If you want to incorporate a leapfrogging mindset in your executive team, consider the following traits when hiring someone new (also see Kaplan’s article):

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