Stop pressing people into forms!

Summary:

If you chose a role-centered approach, don’t come and complain about people not being self-driven, creative, entrepreneurial and excellent. You will stick with what you hired for: conformist people, whose main talent is to fit themselves into forms.

The story:

Lately I visited the exhibition of the treasure of the Habsburg emperors. I gazed at the two different crowns at display, one from the 19th century and one from the 15th century. I was amazed how different they were and in what way. Have a look at them, do you see the difference?

The older one (right one) looked more lively and a little wild and full of beauty. The 19th century one was an amazing peace of art, very impressive, very perfect, but with little charisma.

The older crown had gemstones of different forms, colours and sizes. It looked like they had just cut them a little bit to bring out the sparkle and then put them into frames made to fit for each stone. They were arranged in an order, but respecting the natural shape and beauty of each stone.

The “younger” crown was the opposite. Stones were cut down to fit the preform and the standard shape of all other stones. The stones must have been cut down to fit, losing their natural appearance and characteristics.

I am unfortunately obsessed with seeing patterns wherever I go, that somehow relate to my profession. I immediately saw people and roles instead of stones and forms, two different approaches in Organizations:

  1. The very rare “human-centered” approach – create roles/forms for people/gems
  2. The very common “role-centered” approach – press gems/people into forms/roles

The implication is huge:

Approach 1: Facebook e.g. explicitly hires people for their culture and qualification. They look for talents in a certain domaine! The specific role is formed after people join, based on their strengths and talents. Oftentimes totally new roles are formed around specific talents, the goal is to make best use of what people have to offer. And you don’t always know in advance, what can be offered by people. So they leave it open and roles can also change over time.

The impact: people love to work their, they can bring in and use all they have to offer, they are used based on their strenghts and can develop new skills out of that safe space.

Approach 2: Companies define roles, skills, qualifications, soft-skills in detail and look for the best fit. Once people are there, they are challenged to fill and fit into the role. That means to cut off what you are maybe great in – or leave it unused – and learn what you are not great in yet. It is an approached not focused on strengthening strengths but on fitting into a preform. People try to press themselves into roles, oftentimes leaving some of their innate liveliness and authenticity behind. And the worst part: these organizations miss all the other great talents, they are not even taken into consideration!

This results: hiring people, that are not the greatest and best talented, but best fitting. It results into an organization of conformists that function based on roles.

If you chose that approach, don’t come and complain about people not being self-driven, creative, entrepreneurial and excellent. You will stick with what you hired for: conformist people, whose main talent is to fit themselves into forms.