Number 10’s special adviser Dominic Cummings was in the news recently for declaring he wanted to hire an unusual set of people with different skills and backgrounds to work with the Civil Service. It was not a conventional job advertisement in terms of the language used and didn’t promote flexible working or healthy work-life balance.
Hiring an innovative team depends on finding people who think differently. We all know about the dangers of hiring in our own image, the dangers of group thinking, and unconscious bias. If you want people who are innovative, creative and good problem-solvers then you need to hire those with different perspectives.
To be successful, an enterprise needs as many different perspectives as possible to find the best solutions. Diversity and inclusion is a mainstream business issue that speaks to a firm’s culture and conduct. Christopher Woolard of the FCA puts it neatly: “Diversity matters commercially because robust decision-making comes from challenge, and to get challenge you have to have different voices around the table.”
Diversity in hiring
LinkedIn found that 82% of employers think diversity is crucial to their hiring process (Global Recruiting Trends Report for 2018). Staffing your team with different skills and backgrounds can lead to:
- creative problem-solving
- a better corporate culture
- an appealing employer brand
To succeed in an environment of evolving complexity and constant challenge, we need to be able to react, respond and make bold choices. Effective leadership taps into the collective creativity of the workforce, encouraging new ways of thinking, enabling proactive exploration that unleashes the potential we all have to be creative.
Creativity at work
Gerard Puccio of Buffalo State College in New York stresses the importance of creative thinking skills: “It’s no longer a luxury. It’s about survival”.
This is not to suggest that you should hire weirdos and misfits since Puccio points out that successful creativity involves ensuring ideas are practical and convincing – “creativity is not a license to be bizarre”. However, it may mean rethinking ideas around cultivating creativity and what constitutes failure. If you want creativity, you need to encourage people to ignore convention and hierarchy, to argue the case for their ideas and you may find that you start rewarding failure, not just success; the greatest stumbling block in seeking innovation is inaction!
At 10Eighty some key traits we encourage are curiosity and an inclination towards continuous learning. Business needs people who are agile in the face of uncertainty and unpredictability, who can navigate complexity and ambiguity so as to conjure up new strategies then communicate and implement them in inspirational ways. Relying on standard practices may be comfortable but can also be a dead weight if there’s a need to react quickly with new ways of managing and providing services.
We all know that the truism about people being ‘our important asset’ is more honored in the breach than the observance, but it is their ideas, experience, knowledge, perspectives, and abilities that add real value in a competitive marketplace. By recruiting people from diverse backgrounds, the enterprise imports the fresh ideas, creativity, and experience needed to encourage innovation, manage change and exploit new opportunities.
It’s a question of being open to new ideas and entertaining a new perspective on the environment, sometimes using non-traditional methods. Organizations need to be aware of how biases affect talent management practices, and to appreciate the business-based benefits of diversity practices – diverse companies are more competitive, they better reflect the composition of their customer base and enhance their employer brand.