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A Brave Hire Can Radically Improve Your Business

By Carolyn Ryan

February 25, 2020

I want to warn you about a deadly duo likely to be lurking somewhere in your company's senior teams, their names are “Groupthink” and “Blind spot”. They embed themselves over time and lead to complacency and stunted growth. Thankfully there is an antidote. Chronic groupthink and blind spot can be successfully treated by adding new and interesting perspectives to your top teams whenever you fill a vacancy.

Don't just stick with the standard profile, bring in some real diversity - hire a woman from a different industry, hire a guy with an unusual career path, hire a strategic genius – in short, recruit someone who will challenge your business.

A little about me - I've consulted with hundreds of organisations in every sector, grown sales and profits and I've held senior positions in HR – I've met some relatively strong top teams but I'm yet to see an organisation that wouldn't benefit from an injection of cognitive diversity, challenge and fresh thinking.

Teams are systems, organisations are complex systems – change a key component and the whole system must shift – preferably up a gear or two. Every new senior hire is a chance to reinvigorate your top team and, if you're smart, your entire business; the value a great hire adds shouldn't be underestimated – don't waste the opportunity to do something extraordinary.

In recruitment there's a lot of talk about “fit” - generally code for not rocking the boat; what if the boat isn't watertight? I, for one, would like to know about that before it starts to sink. If you choose to simply replicate yourself, your company-type or your current colleagues, you're risking a broadside attack from the competition at some point in the (probably) near future. Whole industries are being disrupted by better products, new technology and innovative marketing - complacency kills, remember Kodak? Your children won't. You need to accommodate these disruptors within your business, because they will be welcomed in by your competition.

The most powerful yet least understood form of diversity is all in the mind. Bringing in someone who thinks differently will test your own logic, maybe solve long-standing problems and see profitable new opportunities. Embracing cognitive diversity can be uncomfortable and you need to know that the worst thing you can do is recruit brilliant, innovative thinkers then put them on a tight leash or, when push comes to shove, surrender to pressure from established power-bases. Don't force them to conform but do communicate your reasoning and acknowledge that people take time to embrace change and see its turbo-charging potential.

If your HR people don't get it, override them – if your external recruitment partner protests, get a new one. If you're planning on delegating the process (and you'll need to, search is time-consuming) make sure you trust their judgement. Consider using psychometrics, like Myers Briggs, to help identify gaps in cognitive approach - I've used MBTI for top team development and recommend you do too. Above all, get personally involved so you can steer the search towards the knowledge, skills and experience that will complement, better still shake up your business.

Don't fear hiring someone who will challenge the dogma. Take people with you on a journey of discovery, take some risks and remember to share the rewards. You're unlikely to regret it.


Carolyn Ryan is a non-executive director, consultant, writer and executive coach. She works with executive groups in the field of leadership development, strategy, change, people, reward and communication. She has previously led HR strategy for major companies spanning retail, health, housing, banking, media. She is also a successful management consultant to public and private sector organisations and an advisor to businesses and not-for‑profit organisations. Find Carolyn on LinkedIn here or reach out directly at


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