Abhijit BhaduriGuest Author

Adam Grant at SHRM18 in Chicago

By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist

I had interviewed Adam Grant when he had just published his book Give & Take. I loved the book because he proved conclusively that being generous helps. (Read the interview here).

In the long run, the most effective style is not taking or matching, but giving: helping others with no strings attached.  Givers tend to build deeper and broader networks than takers and matchers, investing in meaningful relationships that provide motivation, social capital, and access to new ideas”

I heard him address 22,000 Human Resources professionals at the SHRM’18 event in Chicago. The focus area was his book Originals.


“Culture fit matters most until you hit IPO. Then it slows you down. Because most interviewers look for clones.” – Adam Grant

1. Hiring matters – don’t hire for “culture fit”

Adam Grant, SHRM18The word “culture fit” is often used during hiring to mean people who are we feel comfortable with; we share things in common; people who are just like us.” Original ideas stop when everyone thinks alike. Larry Page had once told Adam Grant that he was afraid, Google would become a “cultural museum”.

Tip: Encourage people to write their job description. Then ask them to write out what they believe to be their strengths. Now have them modify the Job Description to include the strengths (even if those elements are not part of the job today). Ask people what new strengths can they develop?

But make sure to weed out “takers” from the company. Takers do cultural damage. Steal credit. Make people afraid. Learn to identify givers and takers before you hire them.  A toxic employee can do twice the damage as the contribution from a star.

Here is a quick question to ask your next candidate: “What percentage of people, steal from their company? How common is it? 0-25% or is it 25%-50%, 50%-75% or between 75% to 100%? How did you come up with your answer?” Higher the percentage you think, higher is chance you are the dishonest person. While answering this question, people ask themselves what would i do? Thats how takers rationalize their behavior.

2. Look for “Cultural Contribution”Adam Grant, SHRM18

Ask what’s missing from your culture, and select people who can bring that to the table. Follow the example from the design firm IDEO, and hire on cultural contribution. They hire people across disciplines instead of looking for people who fit the “culture”. Diversity of views and experiences is essential to building a culture of Originals.

3. Build an upward challenge network.

Adam Grant, SHRM18To build your challenge network, identify the best skeptics, non-conformists, or disagreeable givers you know. Then ask them for critical feedback on your work and contrarian perspectives on your ideas. Holding senior leaders accountable is the role of HR. When someone tells their team, “Don’t bring me problems. Bring me solutions.” they are not letting people bring complex problems. Create a problem box not a suggestion box. It is a place where people can raise important concerns and criticisms even if they don’t have the solution.
Ask how many people can challenge their boss’ boss in your organization?
Create your “mean feedback” video where you ask people to give you the “meanest feedback” anonymously. Then let the person receiving it share it with the entire team. It makes people feel more comfortable with their own shortcomings when they see leaders sharing the criticism openly with their team. The leaders become role models.

4. Avoid “organizational uniqueness” bias 

Every organization thinks its culture is so unique that they cant learn from anyone else. Ask people what makes the culture unique. These are Organization culture uniqueness stories. Then see recurring patterns in the stories. People have the same concerns when they join a new organization. “Is the big boss human.” “Can I make a difference.” “Is it fair and is it safe?”  Look for “better practices” from others – not best practices.
Tap out a song see if the other person gets it.  We need 10-20 exposures before we understand it.

5. Create new channels for knowledge sharing. 

Don’t do exit interviews. Do “entry interviews”. Let the managers sit down with the new hire and ask, “What are your favorite projects?” “What goals do you wish to pursue.”
Don’t forget to ask them, “What is broken in our interview process and how do we fix it?”
Crowdsource your requests to ask for help with an unproven idea. Get a group of experts to weigh in. Build a bridge with what is familiar within the organization and people who are outside of your organization.
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