The activities your team pursues in their free time are a window into what truly drives them.
Your employees' weekends are their own. You don't pay them for those hours and what they do during them (short of commit felonies or sell company secrets) really shouldn't concern you, right?
Well, not exactly. You may have no right to weigh in on your team's afterhours hobbies, but according to a couple of thought-provoking posts, you should be interested in what they are—and even perhaps ask about them during interviews.
Business people vote with their dollars, and are mostly trying to create near-term financial returns. Engineers vote with their time, and are mostly trying to invent interesting new things. Hobbies are what the smartest people spend their time on when they aren’t constrained by near-term financial goals.
Today, the tech hobbies with momentum include: math-based currencies like Bitcoin, new software development tools like NoSQL databases, the internet of things, 3D printing, touch-free human/computer interfaces, and “artisanal” hardware like the kind you find on Kickstarter.
It’s a good bet these present-day hobbies will seed future industries.
That's fascinating stuff for those looking for long-term tech trends (as well as pop psychologists interested in human motivation) but, according to VC Brad Feld, Dixon's idea is also useful to business owners looking to select a team. 'What do you do on the weekends?' he asserts, isn't just a good question for amateur futurists to ask techies, it's also a good question for bosses to ask potential collaborators:
I've always thought this was a great interview question. I’ve used it with founders of companies I’m looking at investing in, TechStars founders, and execs for early stage companies. Basically, anyone who I’m trying to understand what they are thinking about long term. The variety of answers is fascinating, often deeply personal, and occasionally very confusing to me. But they are always enlightening.
While a candidate's deep-rooted passion for Saturday Star Trek conventions or service dog training might not sound relevant to your business, how we choose to spend our free time is probably the most honest gauge of what we find intrinsically rewarding, and in entrepreneurship, understanding these deep motivations could help you put together a team with similar aims, character and cultural fit.
What do you think – is this a fair and useful question to ask in an interview?
JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist. @EntryLevelRebel