Radical Selection: Who Should be Involved and How to Recruit Them

Written by James O. Rodgers

I just served as a resource person for a client I’m working with. I did so because I know nothing about manufacturing, and that’s the best criteria for a resource person: Someone who knows nothing about what you do. They bring in a fresh perspective.

Good people to bring in are educators. Bring in some psychologists. Bring in the man on the street, someone who uses your product(s).

I’m working with an elevator company. For them I’ve recommended academics, members of the Building Owners and Managers Association, members of the contracting association, facility managers from the buildings they put elevators in, college professors, school teachers – people who don’t make their living worrying about steps one through 17 of installing an elevator part.

What I was able to do as a resource person for them was demonstrate by my own ignorance how much better their process could be. I spent a week with them, I stayed with the process, and I became a member of the team. I asked stupid questions, and four out of eight of my recommendations have been adopted as a way of moving forward, because they see the value of getting a broader perspective to get better results.

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Finding these sorts of people should not be difficult. Check out the colleges and professional associations in the places where you do business and make connections with people involved in those institutions.

If you go about it the right way, most people will jump at the chance to engage in this kind of problem-solving. They’d be honored to do it. Offer them a small honorarium and offer to cover their expenses, get them to sign a very brief non-disclosure agreement and dive in.

How many do you need?

If it’s a decision or innovation that’s really going to be a breakthrough for your company I’d follow the Procter & Gamble example and make at least 50 percent of the group outsiders. 

In other cases, you need fewer. In the project I worked on, I was one of two total outsiders on a team of 10. It’s an art rather than a science. As a guideline, the more important the decision, the more outside opinion you need.