Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Search for Talent: Lessons from the Wildcat Offense!

In the National Football League last year, the Miami Dolphins launched an innovative new offensive strategy called the Wildcat. The strategy was highly unorthodox, involving a series of formations more typical of a college team. Many coaches described it as a gimmick. However, the Dolphins enjoyed remarkable success with the strategy. They achieved an amazing turnaround after a dismal prior season. By the midpoint of this season, many NFL teams have adopted a version of the Wildcat offense. Many new variations of the offense have been invented along the way. More and more people have acknowledged that this strategy is not a gimmick.

The interesting thing is that this formation provides an opportunity to utilize the talents of players once shunned by the NFL. For many years, college quarterbacks who could run the ball effectively, but who were not traditional drop-back passers, did not achieve success in the NFL. Many did not get selected by NFL teams. Or, in many cases, NFL teams tried to force running quarterbacks to transform themselves into traditional passers, which most could not do successfully.

What's the lesson here? Companies often make the same mistake that the NFL did for years with these college quarterbacks who did not fit the usual professional archetype. Firms search for talent that fits their way of doing things, and they try to force people who have unique talents to try to adapt to fit the company's system. They seek conformity. Of course, we should primarily focus on finding talent that fits our company's strategy and culture. However, at times, companies need to be open to the idea of adapting their way of doing business to take advantage of the unique talents of employees. Rather than asking employees to change, sometimes firms need to change. They need to find new ways to utilize the great talent that they have available.

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