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Why this design CEO says he doesn’t hire creative geniuses

Why this design CEO says he doesn’t hire creative geniuses

Every business leader loves to wax philosophic on the need for creativity. It’s a word that spans meanings and industries, and–like any popular buzzword–can easily lose its meaning. But Ideo CEO Tim Brown, a noted expert on the topic of organizational creativity, has a slightly unorthodox theory when it comes to fostering a workplace: Don’t hire a creative genius.

Early Friday morning, Brown sat beside Cisco chief people officer and EVP Francine Katsoudas, Lego Group CEO Niels B. Christiansen, and HCL Technologies CEO and president C Vijayakumar in Davos, Switzerland. All four discussed the problems facing businesses as they try to harness and foster creativity. And Brown was clear in his estimation that some creative people simply aren’t good in teams–which is one of the primary ways Ideo works.

Brown explained that he’s found certain brilliant people just aren’t cut out for working at a collaborative company. “One of the things we do at Ideo,” he said, “is we essentially filter those folks out.” He went on, “they don’t fit in our culture.”

This isn’t to say that the world doesn’t have room for creative geniuses, or that they aren’t helpful to organizations. It’s just that they generally operate at a different pace than others. “Creativity innovation is such a rich ecosystem–and there’s certainly room for individual artists,” Brown said. But what distinguishes individual artists who may not work well in a group “is how they’re driven.” Brown went on, warning about “trying to force them into a collaborative approach that doesn’t suit their drive.”

Brown added that this doesn’t mean they aren’t contributing, but rather their work is better done individually. Moreover, he says, there just aren’t that many truly brilliant artists out there. “The truth is, the number of truly individual creative virtuosos on the planet is tiny,” he said.

Davos Dialogues, a series of editorial panels, videos, and news coverage, is produced in partnership with HCL Technologies. 

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