Companies are failing to make best use of their talent because they are still ‘pigeonholing’ people on the basis of their age and experience. That’s the message from Simon Wright, former CEO of Virgin Entertainment (NASDAQ:VMED) and now a US based consultant to fast growing companies.
“In some instances experience can actually get in the way of solving problems, because of the preconceptions it can engender,” says Wright. “There’s a strong argument for approaching challenges with a ‘beginner’s mind’. But achieving this means putting people in place who combine a commercial mindset with the ability to adapt and use common sense.”
Wright cites instances at Virgin where individuals were ‘parachuted’ into areas where they had little or no directly obvious experience. “One woman, for example, went from store manager to IT director to very successful managing director of a new acquisition within three years because of his excellent people management skills .”
According to Wright, who will be delivering a lecture on the theme at the Ochre House Symposium at Wentworth on 14th September, the reason why so many organisations shy away from this approach is a lack of imagination coupled with fear of the consequences. “Businesses of all sizes need to trust in their instincts and take more risks with people if they are going to manage their talent in a truly effective way,” he says.