Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 20 – bringing innovators into a business and keeping them there 3

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on April 2, 2016

This is my twentieth 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 1-19.)

I wrote in Part 19 of this series about the real and growing limitations faced when restricting yourself and your business to candidate submitted resumes and cover letters as your sole source of initial step, unfiltered input in finding the right people to hire and bring onboard. And in the course of that I offered two approaches for addressing that challenge, and particularly when looking for non-standard, creative people:

• Using these standard candidate submissions but with less stringent initial filtering, and with more work on your part as a hiring manager or HR professional, and
• Supplementing those submissions with carefully selected and considered input from social media as a nonstandard source.

My goal for this posting is to at least begin a more focused discussion of both of these approaches, which I add up-front is also more labor intensive on the hiring business’ side than is the case for what can amount to almost fully automated screening for standard cookie-cutter job candidates.

I begin this by noting an old aphorism that I find illuminating here: “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.”

• If you do not know what you want to find in a nonstandard job candidate, whatever road you take in finding them:
• Regardless of what combination of less initially restrictive screening of standard information sources, and use of novel sources of information about possible candidates that you employ,
• The longer and more arduous your search will be, and the less likely I add, that you will end up finding the right candidates who you would ideally find and bring into your business.

So start out asking some very direct and dispassionately objective questions as to what type of innovator you are looking for:

• Are you looking for new ideas and capabilities for improving the products and/or services that your business produces and sends out to your marketplace?
• If so, are you more concerned about a current lack of initial innovative product and service ideas that your business could develop into cost-effective marketable offerings, or are you more concerned about a lack of skilled innovators who can carry out that development process, taking initial innovations and turning them into consumer-appealing, profitable offerings? (See Part 18 of this series for its discussion of initial catalyst innovators and follow-through development innovators.)
• Alternatively, are you primarily concerned about the overall quality and currency of your underlying business processes, and see a need for innovative improvement there? This is an area where many and even most businesses would turn to business management consulting and related outside resources, and bring in stand-alone consultants or consulting firms to help them review operational systems in place, and to help craft better alternatives where problems such as bottlenecks or disconnects are found. But this can mean leaving an older and no longer competitively effective set of operational processes to replace them with what are essentially standardized and already widely available alternatives – that the consultants of your choice would bring to their other client companies too, including your direct competitors.
• What of this business redevelopment and improvement process would you want to outsource in this way and what of it would you want to manage, and on an ongoing basis from within your company by bringing in people who would work in-house and who could devise possible new approaches that would be specific to your business and that could be prototype tested there, and that your competition would be more hard-pressed to match?

Know as fully and in as much detail as possible what you seek to bring innovators in to accomplish. Then ask what you should look for that would indicate experience and at least a measure of success in actually doing that. And look for indications of this in the records and statements of possible candidates, and both when looking at that more loosely screened and larger set of candidates that come through when looking at those standard resumes and cover letters, and when looking at nonstandard information sources such as social media.

• Look to the resumes and cover letters to identify the skills and experience that a good candidate would need if they are to be prepared to effectively innovate in the right areas in your business that you are targeting for this type of improvement and advancement.
• Then look to those nonstandard sources to help you filter out the real innovators from the generic resume hype.

And this brings me to the core question that I would pose in this series installment. What types of detail should you best look for, for that? I am going to take this discussion out of the abstract in the next series installment by posing two examples: one in product development and the other in business process innovation. In anticipation of that I add here that:

• In my first, product and service innovation example I will focus on new in a rapidly changing high technology field, and
• In my second, business process innovation example I will focus on lower level and middle managers who have been given a measure of opportunity in the course of their work lives and who have actively worked to develop and implement newer and better in their business practices, as for example in satellite offices or separate functional teams that they have managed.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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