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One Pilot - Maybe Two


Just thinking out loud... I want to contrast two pilots.

The first pilot knows the river. She senses the channel as if it were connected to her. She understands exactly where to steer the craft and moves it expertly up river. Her arrival time beats others because of her familiarity. Everyone esteems her confidence and experience. They need her to guide them safely, and people follow her easily.

The second pilot knows no river. He searches out the unfamiliar and explores endlessly. His boat has more patched holes than a kindergartner's jeans. He finds what paths not to take more often than what paths to take. He scares the shit out of most everyone, and few want to follow him. His value is always in question - until he charts that course that shortcuts the trade route or finds something more valuable than was known previously.

Every organization has at least one of the first pilot.

Some organizations have a pilot or two of the second variety.

Almost all organizations espouse the virtues of diversity, but diversity is more than just skin deep. Through variety, organisms and organizations evolve.

Strength and stability come via the deft skill of the first pilot.

Growth and adaptation come through the embrace of risk by the second pilot.

Every organization, like every species, needs both to survive. The tragedy is that most managers hire people who feel comfortable to them. They seek a "fit" for the organization. Pilot Number Two will never feel like a "fit." They won't conform to the company norms. If they did, they wouldn't have a passion for exploration.

This makes it quite hard for managers to recognize and hire really good adventurers. Here's what a few people have said about the qualities of the good adventurer:

"It's important for the explorer to be willing to be led astray." - Roger Von Oech

"Explorers have to be ready to die lost." - Russell Hoban

"[Explorers] never stop because they are afraid - they are never so likely to be wrong." - Fridtjof Nansen

"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be too cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down." - Ray Bradbury

Some people mistake the rebel for the explorer. They're not the same. The rebel can be a cynic; the explorer is never cynical. The explorer thinks nothing of working feverishly, optimistically chasing flirtatious ideas. The rebellious cynic sees no solutions. It's not just being a misfit that counts; it's being a romantic. The adventurer sees hope in the pursuit, and isn't running away from the company, but running toward the opportunity that few others can see. A pilot, if they're a pilot, always has a destination in mind. Managers can identify a good explorer when the job interview feels like a ride through the jungle - with the explorer driving at breakneck speed.

An explorer isn't worried about being a fit. An explorer wonders if you dare...


by Brett Rogers, 12/4/2007 2:20:55 AM


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