Radical Selection: Listening to Ideas from Outside the Circle

Written by James O. Rodgers

“Radical Selection” is a crucial step in the Deliberate Diversity™ process. It is based on the idea that the broader our perspective is, the better our ideas become. When we put together a design team or an innovation team, it’s important to get as many different perspectives together as possible in order to produce breakthrough results.  That’s why you need to bring in perspectives from outside your company.

The Difference Between Limited Selection and Radical Selection

First of all, Radical Selection doesn’t mean choosing people from different parts of your company. Most businesses are at a place now where they know that if they want to build an effective team they need someone from marketing and manufacturing and sales all on that team. That is “Limited Selection.” Radical Selection takes it even further. Radical Selection takes you to the point that few companies, like Procter&Gamble, have reached: They mandated that 50 percent of their innovation would come from outside the business. So instead of just working with people inside the company, Radical Selection is going outside the company to bring in “resource people.” Here are three reasons why this works: 

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1. Outsiders will see things that insiders won’t. If General Electric decides they want to do something better than Honeywell, there’s a good chance it’s going to be incremental at best because they’re in the same industry. They’ve all been trained the same way. They think the same.  So they come up with a one-degree change and they’re shouting “Hallelujah!”

If you want breakthrough change, it’s important to bring in people who see the world differently. If you’re in a technical business, think about bringing in someone from the education sector. Educators look at the world differently than engineers because they have different challenges, issues and goals. Outsiders will ask questions that you and your people would never think to ask.

When I was at Bell South we used resource people in intense executive training. We brought in an outside person to take us through classical literature and have us discuss things about leadership that we didn’t normally talk about. One of the things this outsider knew was that we all worked together and we’d just wind up breathing our own exhaust in those conversations unless someone from the outside sparked new thinking. 

2. Outsiders aren’t afraid to ask questions that would make insiders feel stupid. If you bring in people from outside, they won’t be afraid to look silly, to ask questions like, “Why do you do it like that?” Or they’ll feel free to say things like, “The first thing I think of when I see that is …” because these outsiders have nothing to lose from looking silly in front of the other people on the team, they’ll be more likely to advance fresh ideas. These things come naturally from people who don’t know anything about the industry, the process or the product.

3. Perhaps more importantly,outsiders don’t have any political baggage inside the organization. They’d be able to say stuff that people inside the business would never dare say for fear of the political ramifications.

The object here is to increase the possibilities. Insiders are constrained by their experience and their education. If a radical idea comes up their immediate response is to say, “That won’t work because we’ve never tried it before.” A radical is someone who’s stupid enough to believe it could possibly work after all.