Most people think of a dandelion as a weed: an ugly interloper in an otherwise green and perfect lawn. However, dandelions are actually useful plants–they were brought over to the New World by European settles because they contain Vitamin C, at the time much-needed to combat scurvy. It’s all about context, and this is why Robert D. Austin and Thorkil Sonne use it as a metaphor in the article “The Dandelion Principle: Redesigning Work for the Innovation Economy.”
The article explains that it can be highly beneficial to managers to seek out and hire people to do specific tasks who might have otherwise been overlooked for such jobs. The company founded by Sonne, Specialisterne (Danish for “The Specialists”) makes a point of hiring people who have some form of autism spectrum disorder, for example, because they have found that such people can be “well-suited to certain jobs, such as software testing, quality control and security monitoring.” Hiring these so-called dandelions not only provides job opportunities to people who are normally considered unhireable, but also allows unconventional thinkers to add value as they can see things others might not.
To read more about how to adapt one’s management style to work with one of these dandelions, check out the full article from The MITSloan Management Review here.