Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 11 – involving the crowd as a source of competitive advantage 6

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 27, 2015

This is my eleventh installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-10.)

I began Part 10 with a list of issues that any business and its Human Resources Department would need to address, if it is to more effectively and competitively seek out cutting edge talent in its hiring processes and if it is to retain those people once they are hired. And I began working my way through that list in that installment, stating that I would continue doing so here.

To maintain continuity of discussion here, my Part 10 topics and issues list consisted of:

• Addressing at least some of the core issues and approaches that are available for determining which skills and types of experience you might need next, in-house in building for your business’ competitive future,
• And how to more effectively use online social media as a source of insight, both in resolving that point and in finding the right candidates to reach out to when doing so.
• And after that I stated that I would also address relevant staff retention issues too, with that including a discussion of better understanding which positions and employees are most crucial now and which will be needed moving forward for their special qualifications,
• And how best to meet the needs and requirements of these employees and help in retaining them on-staff, in ways that would both work for both these key employees and for the business as a whole.

And I added that I would discuss how both in-house interactive intranets, and outside-sourced social media and other online resources can be cultivated as sources of insight for addressing all of these issues.

I began this wide-ranging discussion in Part 10 with the first of these bullet points, and then took the goals-oriented half to the second point on that list and divided it into two staffing challenges:

• Hiring employees with highly in-demand skills and real world experience using them, and not just classroom training in these new and still emerging technologies, that would be required in order to keep a business current with unfolding best practices that are already appearing and in place in its business vertical and in its industry, and
• Looking for the right people who can go beyond simply using publically available new technologies in more predictable ways. This means looking for special, non-standard employees who can innovatively develop new and next-step technologies in-house, and who can use them in combination with more established technologies in novel and disruptively new ways, in solving problems that most others had never even brought into focus as being available for specific resolution.

I focused essentially entirely on the first of those challenges in Part 10 and on the onboarding of special skills that would be needed to keep the business competitive and at its current industry’s and vertical’s cutting edge. My goal for this installment is to switch to the second of these two bullet points, and to the issues of hiring for break-away, innovative excellence. And then after that I will continue working my way through the above-repeated to-discuss list.

Staying competitively abreast of the current cutting edge is challenging.

• You need to be able to identify the best new technologies and approaches that are becoming available, and know what they can do and be used for as basic emerging business development resources.
• You need to be able to identify which of them would hold the greatest value for your business to focus on acquiring, and out of all of the emerging New that is always out there, and which of all of this would hold lesser value and lower priority for your particular business’ needs.
• And to fully address this posting’s issues you have to think beyond any current here and now offerings, and to your business’ and your marketplace’s unmet needs.
• What types of candidates do you need to bring in to meet the challenges of the above three points? And more specifically, who would you need to both understand and meet the challenges of this list’s third point? Who might you have in-house already who holds potential for helping your business reach this type of next step forward?

And then you have to out-compete your competitors in finding and attracting and retaining the best people: potential new hires and under-utilized current employees who could offer your business your highest priority new skills and technologies – and who also have the interpersonal and other skills that would make them a good fit for working at your business and with your current staff and managers, and with your customers and other involved stakeholders where necessary too. That, collectively, is not easy and even when simply addressing the first of those four bullet point challenges. The challenge of finding and hiring and retaining for more open ended future opportunity is much more demanding. And I begin addressing that by making note of the general title to this series, as this is where its wording and its underlying message assume paramount importance:

• Invest in people with ideas and not just in ideas;
• Put your emphasis on the creativity and insight and the abilities of the people who know and use the technologies that make your business run, and that hold promise for making it continue to run effectively and competitively – and not just on some particular current state of the art technology they might know or some current or emerging skill that is currently garnering a lot of supportive hype.
• But look beyond that, and be willing to take the risk that you will hire at least some potential innovators who do not succeed to your satisfaction, as a cost of finding and bringing in the ones who will.

Look for people who ask questions, and who come up with interesting and unexpected answers when asked them. Look for people who are intensely curious and who look in unusual ways and with real intensity as to how the parts of systems fit together. Look for people who think differently and who do so with a through intensity. These people always have a through grounding in the current state of the art, here-and-now of their fields of endeavor. But they are always looking at least one small step beyond that and asking questions that this current state of technology does not and even cannot address. And look for ways and for places within your organization where these potential hires would effectively fit in and where they could communicate their insights. And if they cannot do so with absolutely anyone and everyone there at your business that is all right, as long as they can work with others who they would need to work with, so their insights can diffuse out to the rest of the organization and into productive use and implementation through that.

For real, full time inventors and innovators, that is why innovative-supportive businesses set up explicit research and innovation centers. And that, in a wider and more inclusively innovation-supporting context, is why I first began developing my take on what I refer to as an innovation transition committee for cultivating and supporting innovation and for facilitating its diffusion into active business results (see my posting Keeping Innovation Fresh – 7: translating and transferring innovation from the innovation center to the production line, and I recommend at least reviewing the complete series that fits into, as can be found at Business Strategy and Operations – 2, postings 241 and loosely following for its Parts 1-16.)

That type of innovation-supportive system can effectively support employees and workplace environments that focus not so much on the immediate here-and-now needs and priorities of a business, but rather on its longer-term possibilities and on building a foundation for its longer-term future. And this posting and this portion of this series is about openly looking for, bringing in and supporting the people who can effectively contribute to building that future. And I add a key hiring consideration to this discussion here, as the sharing of an observation that I have seen repeatedly validated:

• Job markets and hiring businesses are much more competitive when it comes to hiring for a perceived immediate here-and-now and for bringing in current, and particularly well-hyped new and current, than they are for hiring the truly creative thinkers who could build that next step beyond the current new and hyped.
• When you find those people you need to treat them as if they were the more routine cutting edge current technology pros that others seek out too, insofar as offering them generous salary and benefits packages. And it is vitally important to give them some time to prove themselves, and to support them when and as they do that.
• In this, simply affording these employees a genuine opportunity to work and to create, and giving them opportunity to see their innovations turned into working practical reality can be among the most compelling inducements to join your company and to stay there, that you could offer.
• But be generous with salary and other more standard benefits inducements too.

And with that, I turn to the methods half to second bullet point topic of discussion that I listed at the top of this posting:

• And how to more effectively use online social media as a source of insight, both in resolving that point and in finding the right candidates to reach out to when doing so.

I am going to turn to that complex of issues in my next series installment, and as promised above will continue with my top of posting to-address list of topic points after that. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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