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Do you want to dominate your market? Upgrade your Company IQ

April 21, 2009

Bill Gates is not just a technical genius. His HR model is based in some pretty indisputable logic, with an insight bordering on genius. Mr. Gates openly says he cannot undo 2 things – your upbringing in terms of integrity, work ethic and playing nicely with others plus your IQ. On the latter, he often says “you win with [the company’s cumulative] IQ”. He then goes on to say that assuming you have the IQ and core values, he can train you in whatever else you need to know. He demands a high Company IQ, and he competes for talent against other elite companies raiding top companies and schools. Let’s call them the ‘grounded hyper-intelligent’ and they are the people you want in these crazy times.

In a recent blog posting I talked about some people being ‘an inch too smart’ and not seeing the obvious because it requires having 2 feet on Planet Real Life. Managing hyper-intelligent employees is like herding cats, at best. As employees, they come in 2 flavors:

Arrogant, are disdainful of others without Mensa quality IQs who think they can do whatever they please without much caring about anyone else because they were always able to figure out a solution by the last possible moment or are dismissive of the rest of us as being dumber. It’s all about them and their gain. Reciprocally, employees do not care about them and can’t wait for Mr. Arrogant to implode. This group is action oriented, at least, but can easily take a wrong turn and bring down the entire enterprise. Think of the wunderkind who ran AIG’s Financial Products unit. Look for these people doing the white-collar perp walk on the 6PM news. Hi, my name is Bernie, want to be my roommate?

Other hyper-intelligent employees need to know everything and excel at deep dives. To them, investigation and data diving is the same as action. They can prep and gather information without end because it’s good to learn new things and after all, it keeps their minds engaged and so they delude themselves into thinking they are actually moving the ball down the field, so to speak. Excellent researchers, great for new products and core R&D, they are academic oriented. If not required to produce on a daily basis, they can be top team members, but can easily become unfocused or obsess on something that doesn’t make sense at present, even if it matters not to your company’s needs. This group are ‘super novas’, very bright but very distant.

The best employee then would be action oriented but ‘grounded hyper-intelligent’. I can see your brainwaves, and I know you’re thinking about why should the Receptionist have a 150 IQ? All they have to do is answer the phone, and besides, these people will get bored and leave or make trouble until they are either promoted or leave. This is true, but it implies a horrible HR assumption on your part. You are telling me you are not an elite company, where there is an upwards path for quality employees, and you hire for the task and maybe a level up. A good way to control labor costs and turnover, but how do you break out from what you normally do without bringing in consultants periodically to shake things up? Dominating a market is all about a million ongoing adjustments, some required by current conditions, but many are based on a solid read of near and medium term trends.

Here’s an analogy – the very best fighter aircraft are actually aerodynamically unstable, relying on a zillion computer sensed and commanded adjustments to stay in control.  Pilots often think they’re crackerjacks until they see post mission camera footage showing the computers adjusting their control surfaces millions of times.  This plane with a slower and ‘lower wattage’ onboard intelligence would be in about the same shape as a company would be with only average employees – stable only for short periods.

Hiring ‘grounded hyper-intelligents’ takes upfront prep work on your part.  Frozen rules and processes need to be rethought (perhaps by a pilot group of these people) and there has to be a purpose for your business. We’re not talking about altruism – you simply need to think and execute in terms of dominating a market or industry to catch their attention. They respond to a mission.

One more point – don’t assume there are ‘lots’ of great employees in the job market, waiting to be snatched up to upgrade your corporate IQ. Unless a company folds and releases everyone or an entire business unit’s employees, no business is going to layoff its best employees, and so you should be doubly careful about hiring right now. High performing employees are safely cocooned inside their current employer and so you will have to identify them and entice their move, mainly by selling them your mission to dominate. Take advantage of the slower times as your one opportunity to recreate your company at a higher IQ level. Remember – from every economic downturn, a new #1 emerges.

Rich Eichen is a Managing Principal of Return on Efficiency, LLC, who’s website is www.growroe.com and is one of their senior turnaround leaders/CROs, Program and Interim Executives with over 25 years experience reshaping companies and key initiatives as well as operating units of Global organizations. He can be reached at richard.eichen@growroe.com

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