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In Your Own Words
How To Unlock The Hidden Genius In Your Organization



Every organization has brilliant people who are "under the radar." They are the geniuses who may not look like everyone else, think like everyone else, or who have been ignored because they don't fit your image of success.

Those people are potential game changers, innovators and revolutionary thinkers, but don't feel included, and remain unrecognized and unacknowledged. They will either leave your organization and go work for your competitors, start their own businesses or remain invisible.

Do you use a process to discover and uncover those hidden geniuses? Are you oblivious to their possibilities, and unaware of the obstacles that will make you miss out on the next big idea?
 
Here are three obstacles that can stop you from unlocking the hidden genius in your organization, or seeing it in potential hires.
 
1. Unconscious, unintentional or "every day" racism and racial bias.
There may be a subtle or overt pressure to conform. People who look different than the majority of employees and who may speak, dress or think differently are labeled and stereotyped by other employees, and may be excluded if they express their ideas outside of an old structure or the group's comfort zone.
 
Racism today is more than refusing to hire someone based on the color of their skin, supporting segregation or obvious discrimination. It shows up in different ways such as:
Not recognizing, believing or trivializing the experiences and perspectives of people with different color skin or physical characteristics;
Assuming someone is not qualified based on subjective factors and a racial bias;
Not giving as much credence to their ideas.
Employees that feel invisible, shot down, and not heard will not speak up and share their genius. This impedes innovation and the creation of new systems and processes that can expand market appeal.

Solution: Take the time to learn about the manifestation of racism and racial bias in the 21st century and examine your own behaviors and beliefs, as well as those of your employees.
 
No matter how much you like an employee, or how long they've worked with you, don't let comments and actions based on race go, or make excuses. By speaking up, you'll gain the trust of employees and create an environment where people are more willing to participate in creative ways.

Get to know employees that don't look like you. Ask them for innovative solutions and suggestions for new products and services. Find new ways for people to contribute and get their genius on.
 
2. Promoting people based on narrow criteria.
The VP of one of my client companies complained that people of color and women don't think strategically or understand the foundations of business. He didn't consider them for promotions. He had a fixed idea about what kind of person was strategic and who was not, based on life-long stereotypes.

He said he had "no problem" promoting women and people of color if they could just think more like him.
If you don't think people from certain groups will excel in particular areas, you may relegate them to secondary roles and essentially ignore them when they come up with the next revolutionary idea. When someone else makes the same suggestion, that person gets the credit and award.
 
You've bypassed a hidden genius who may shut down or take their brilliance elsewhere.
 
The CEO understood the importance of uncovering hidden genius and the need to remove obstacles. Shortly after calling us in, he removed the VP.
 
Solution: Open your eyes, open your mind and learn how different people tackle problems, collaborate, and create new systems and processes to get things done in your organization. Develop more objective criteria for promotion that focuses on quality of results and look for undiscovered people who can take your organization to new levels.
 
3. Hiring and promoting the ideal candidate, not the "idea" candidate.
Some organizations that claimed to value diversity only hire people who graduate from certain elite schools. It was a good thing that college drop-outs Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison and Richard Branson started their own companies.
Additionally, Condoleeza Rice, Ursula Burns, Marian Wright Edelman and Rosalind Brewer were all brilliant and successful who went to non-elite schools. They too would have been rejected.
 
Consider how much money, time and resources you're wasting because hidden geniuses are languishing away, getting turned away, or keeping their brilliance to themselves.
 
Solution: Start hiring the "idea" candidate. Missing the hidden geniuses in your organization is bad for business, bad for reputation and will make you a commodity instead of breakthrough. Present a problem to the candidate and ask them for two new creative ways to solve it.
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