Time to Innovate and go the “Dandelion” way

Whenever we think of Dandelions, we think of weeds, an obnoxious interloper in an otherwise green and perfect lawn. Though many people consider dandelions as weeds that spoil a green lawn, the plant has many beneficial characteristics: The roots can make a coffee substitute; the leaves are edible; and dandelions are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals. So, it is only considered a weed in the framework of a carefully maintained and well-kept lawn.

In a business environment, the word “Dandelion” is generally used as a powerful metaphor and more popularly known as the “The Dandelion Principle”. Once a company has a “dandelion” as an employee, it is key that the employee is supported by an appropriate management style, which apparently acts as a big benefit in the long run. It can be highly beneficial to managers to seek out and hire people to do specific tasks who might have otherwise been overlooked for those jobs.

The SAP AG case study

During its annual user conference in May 2013, the German multinational software giant SAP AG announced plans to hire hundreds of people diagnosed with autism (the Dandelions), with a target of having people with autism represent 1% of the company’s work force by 2020. Autism is a developmental disorder associated with impairment of the ability to communicate with others and “preoccupation with repetitive activities of restricted focus.’

Well, according to SAP AG, there is a strong business rational behind hiring people with Autism: the company had discovered that people with autism have abilities that are extremely well-suited to performing some vital information technology tasks, such as software testing. Their motivation was to hire people who are among the best in the world at jobs other people are not able to perform as well.


The flip side to hiring dandelions is that the collaborative, team environment of most companies is a particular challenge. There can be frictions and tensions. Where this has been successful, there are mechanisms or processes in place to notice signs of friction or difficulty and address these promptly. The teams and people around a dandelion need to understand what’s going on, need briefing, even training, and there might need to be someone ready to jump in if a serious problem arises.

Dandelions for smaller companies

It is no coincidence that great achievers, rarely fit into conventional or cliche categories, ex from the tech industry are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Nerds, outcasts and college drop outs who somehow make good resources have made phenomenal contribution to the tech sector in the recent years. Some have also deduced that many code champs and hardware heroes who worked out tech innovations, might source higher than average in the Autism spectrum. Therefore, the Dandelion principle might be even more important for smaller companies. As small companies often have to evolve to find the approaches that bring them fast and sustainable success, hiring people with remarkable abilities that you didn’t foresee value in when you had your previous mindset on, might just turn out to be your most important assets.

Author Bio

Gurinder Khera, 20 years of versatile experience across Content Marketing, Digital Marketing Operations, Entrepreneurship, Management Consulting, Outsourcing and Information Technology domain with global experience in working in 3 different regions: North America, Europe, and India.

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