(Reprinted from my column, Super Human Capital, on Forbes.com.)
My focus—in practice and in study—has been on how to unleash incredible talent in order to build great companies.
I call my approach “Super Human Capital” because I believe a talented fully engaged workforce has a lot in common with pop-culture superheroes we all know and love.
My personal favorites have always been the superheroes that don’t actually have any special powers. As a youngster I loved watching the Lone Ranger on TV. Later my favorite comic books included Batman and Ironman (and, yes, I’m nerdy enough to actually have an Ironman action figure standing on my desk as I write this). Today’s superheroes include James Bond and even Katniss Evergreen from the Hunger Games.
All of these superheroes were regular people who decided to go above and beyond in pursuit of a higher goal. They could have just gone along with normal lives, but instead they chose to take some risks, put in some extra crime-fighting hours, for the betterment not of themselves but for society as a whole.
Corporate superheroes indeed walk among us. They’re rare, but I’ve seen them. I’ve worked with teams of them. They use discretionary effort, take personal risks, in pursuit of their organization’s goals. You’ve seen them too. It’s that one team member you have that you wish you had 10 more just like her. It’s that person who resigned from the company you work for and you thought, “Oh man, now what are we going to do.”
The most effective have also discovered and developed their unique skills to great effect. Now most HR and OD experts would call this “Employee Engagement 2.0, teaches managers how to turn apathetic groups into emotionally committed teams.