The Pink Paperclip

How do we find the best people to work with? How can we gauge whether or not an employee or a partner is going to have a relentless approach to problem solving with us?

A year ago I learned how a friend of mine uses pink paperclips as a recruiting tool, and it clicked with me in such a deep way. Business is really about relationships and we ought to be looking at skillsets that go much deeper than job descriptions. This idea illuminates a lens or a frame that I believe can help us in everyday life as well as in business.

Michael worked in high level software sales. This means he would often be in a lobby waiting to meet with a C Level executive to pitch the software he was selling. For those of you who don’t know, the bigger the company and the more money on the line, the longer a sales person is going to have to wait in the lobby. Long hours of boredom in a lobby can lead to some solid creative moments. Michael had one of those.

At some point, in one of his lobby sessions, he decided to leave a pink paper clip by the elevator door in the executive’s office lobby. This wasn’t just some prank, it had a deep purpose. He wanted to see if anyone walking around might do two things.

A. Notice the pink paperclip on the ground.
B. Do something about it.


It takes a certain kind of person to care to notice that a pink paperclip is out of place in the office. It takes a whole different person to not only notice, but also do something about it. Michael’s premise is that the people he wants to hire do both.
In the time that he waited, if someone picked up the paperclip, he would talk to them, get their info and try to recruit them, or at least be very encouraged that the executives he is a bout to pitch have people around that are in that mindset.

I think there are two immediate takeaways here.

1. Be the person who picks up the pink paperclip. Train yourself to notice and care about little things. The little things matter. A lot. Imagine if everyone picked up trash as they walked around their neighborhood on lunch break. Imagine if no one left their shopping carts in the parking lot but walked them back to the store.
2. Surround yourself with people who would pick up the pink paperclip. They are the ones who will constantly be solving problems and making the world better around you because they just love to contribute.

I hope we all can adopt a daily practice of being more mindful of the details of our surroundings and relationships. I hope we can hold that mindfulness with a motive to constantly, gently, improve ourselves, everything and everyone around us.

Have a wonderful day and as always,
Peace, Love and Rock’n’Roll,

Jesse Barney