I have a mate who I can reliably ask for information on trains. I have another mate who I can present with a technical problem, walk away and know he’ll come back to me with either a solution or a potential path to one. I have a third mate (I know, so popular) who will tell you why he thinks your idea is garbage, with no regard for rank or social niceties.
If I was trapped in a room with these three people for any extended period of time, there would be a trio of murders – and I’m not sure I’d be the sole survivor, to be honest. But each one of them has helped me out with work-based problems over the years, going above and beyond the call of duty to improve whatever it was I was doing at the time. They’re good people, and even better allies.
Hidden geniuses work among us
Not everybody is fortunate enough to have access to the minds of people who think differently, especially for free, and are only a call or message away. But the neurodivergent among us – whether clinically diagnosed or merely offbeat – can be an invaluable resource to your organisation if you handle them correctly.
What does that mean? It means that if you want specialised geniuses or iconoclasts to work their particular magic for you, it will probably entail working around some quirks. In the case of my second friend in the opening paragraph, that means gritting your teeth as deadlines fly by because he was hyperfocused on the particular problem that has seized control of his entire brain. In the case of the third, it means forcing yourself not to take offence when he’s being direct. The first mate is quite nice, considerate and efficient – he just loves trains.
These are just a few examples of the loose cannons you should implement in your team.
A worthy solution for every team
There’s a lot of lip service paid to the idea of giving people free time at work to pursue personal projects, or building slack into schedules to allow for the exploration of creative or technical dead ends. But how many companies actually do this in practice?
At best, you often end up with a conceptual grey market, where people find themselves having to hide the fact they’re not working on something they should be, even though what they’re actually doing could be of more beneficial to the overall organisation.
It’s a tricky needle to thread – those deadlines exist for a reason, and it’s undeniably frustrating when someone presents you with a detailed solution to a problem you hadn’t assigned, instead of the agreed-upon work they were meant to be doing. But it’s always worth looking for a solution to this situation that highlights everyone’s strengths instead of trying to strap those cannons to the mast.
So here’s what you do: get them to come up with a workable strategy. It’s guaranteed to be more bespoke and suitable than anything you’d come up with on your own.