Company leaders often say to me “we need to innovate faster” and we need to increase our yield of ideas to market. It’s a core area of competitiveness. But what is interesting to me is that their emphasis on this is often how many talented engineers they have, and how may patents they file, and the pedigree of those engineers. I think those things are necessary for sure but it seems to me missing some kind of secret sauce.
It seems to me we ought to also know how to get diverse points of view into the system, because that is what allows us to see things from different angles and fundamentally shift our approach from seeing the problem the way it’s always been seen (and thus unsolved, one could presume) and see it afresh to create the shift in viewpoint that allows for a new creative act.
Companies continue to hire the same breed and genetic strain of employees as is somehow that helps us “meet the requirements”. Managers abdicate responsibility for this to HR. HR abdicates responsibility to an in house contractor recruiter or recruitment consultancy. They don’t often see the business value a candidate brings but do a quick check on the CV to see how many tick boxes they match. Quite often the recruiter does not even understand the clients business. They discard many applications who perhaps could give them creativity, new ways of doing business and above allchallenge the status quo. At present they can afford to waste so many applicants as there are so many of us unemployed. But that won’t last forever. Some of the best hires I ever made were not people who came from the same background as me, or the same organization I worked at, but from another world as they were not burdened with the preconceived fears and ways of doing business that I had slowly learnt in my career path. They challenged me because they didn’t even realize they were challenging me.
Solution: at least 10% of your new hires need to be from a completely different industry so you learn how they think. Software companies should be looking at people who worked in the car industry or retail environment or even run a coffee shop. Why not? If they are bright and determined they will get up to speed fast to leverage the opportunity you gave them. Crazy idea? Maybe but more of the same approach might get us the same results. Why not try something different.