INSTANT MBA: Don’t Hire People Who Are Exactly Like You

Margaret Heffernan

Today’s advice comes from Margaret Heffernan’s column at Inc.:

“Finding and getting along with people very different from you is hard work and requires a significant investment of time. But think of this as your insurance policy. You need lots of extra pairs of eyes and ears—and you need them to see and hear things that you can’t.”

But most people will want to hire those who are similar to them. According to Heffernan, we are most comfortable with like-minded individuals, statistically, and this is dangerous.

If there are too many like-minded individuals in a company, there won’t be any conflict, debate or dissent. In other words, there won’t be much thinking. However, if you have different people in your company, “their ability to spot risks or greater opportunities is immensely valuable.” When you find these people, don’t turn them into your clones.

Heffernan has had a varied career, including time as a television producer, the head of a powerful lobbying organisation and chief executive officer at Internet businesses. She is also the author of several books and is a visiting professor of entrepreneurship at Simmons college. 

She acknowledges that working with people who are your opposites can be exhausting and time-consuming because, well, you may not like them that much. But overall, hiring a wide range of personalities will reap significant rewards.

“The company in which there is no conflict is the one where there’s no debate and precious little thinking.”

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