Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In Pursuit of Excellence? Hire Artists

I just finished reading Tom Peters' latest book: The Little Big Things. It’s full of quippy gems about how to improve business.

Years ago, Tom had a mantra that went like this: Want to drive excellence? “Hire freaks.”

I couldn’t help wanting to update that when I came across this powerful story from QLab. Chris Ashworth, CEO at QLab, gushed about his latest discovery. It led his entertainment app company to excellence: Hire artists.

When Ashworth hired LuckyDave, a video artist, into the firm, things started to click. The help desk closed gaping time-to-first-response lags. That support improved usability and generated positive word of mouth. Sales rocketed. Happy story.

The trick was in letting LuckyDave work around his life as an artist. Chris Ashworth understood that the art’s the thing for LuckyDave. Not the software job, however cool. So rather than make LuckyDave a servant of two masters, he let Dave customize his job to make it possible to earn a decent living and not compromise his art.

Then, LuckyDave got a job offer. A financial services company dangled $80,000 annual salary in front of the artist. Would he bite? Ashworth held his breath. There is no way he’d compete with that kind of $$$$.

LuckyDave passed. He’s happy at QLab. He loves his boss for understanding the needs of an artist. Loves that he’s pushing the upstart toward big success. As for passing on the big money?

Chris explained it this way: “Well, pretty crazy if you just focus on the money. But for many (all?) of the best people in the world, money stops mattering once you have enough to not worry about it.”

And so, to Tom Peters and all the other management gurus out there…welcome to the RenGen. The renaissance generation is here. It’s a rising swath of creative, can-do people who want to make a difference. If you can make room for these exciting talents in your work culture, I predict you’ll re-create Ashworth’s competitive advantage.

The mantra for excellence in the coming years isn’t “hire freaks.” It’s “hire artists.”


Mr. Keith said...

This reminds me of when I was at a temp job two years ago, and my boss said: "If I could, I would hire only tech theatre people, because they're so used to doing hardwork extremely fast and efficiently (and in some cases, in front of people) that when you give them an office job, they can just finish it and not complain."

That, and this, makes me happy.

Demosthenes said...

I wish I could forward this & Ashworth's article to every consultant I ever met. 9/10 times, it's never made sense to them why I would choose to do what I do, rather than chase the almighty dollar. But to my way of thinking, you HAVE to do what you love or your passion for life withers on the vine.

Cheers to companies taking a chance.

Patricia Martin said...

Agreed! In fact, it doesn't feel like such a chance. People with experience working with artists, as Mr. Keith points out, find it incredibly worthwhile.

Thanks for chipping in your thoughts.

Patricia Martin said...

Mr. Keith-
We commented back to you, but somehow, Blogger swallowed our comment. Rats. It was something nice to match the spirit of your remarks, which made us happy. Blogger software notwithstanding.