The biggest myth about innovation is that it is done only by geniuses who work alone. The truth is that innovation happens when ordinary people learn to work together. The key is to find individuals who don't think like you, who can fill in your blind spots and make up for your weaknesses.
In order to encourage effective collaboration within your organization, you need to find people who are good talent-scouts. These are the teachers, coaches, and connectors in your world--the people who have a natural eye for talent, who have the skill of finding and nurturing creativity. They know who needs to sit next to whom when it comes to building effective teams.
Talent-scouting takes time. It is a long-term kind of growth that emphasizes the cultivation of new knowledge and the building of a dynamic organizational culture. If you're looking for systematic, reliable outcomes or guaranteed short-term payoffs, then talent-scouting is not for you. The pace of talent-scouting is unpredictable. But once you do assemble a diverse team of high-performers, the culture you establish will be sustainable into the future.
Talent-scouting can help you achieve any of these desired outcomes:
- Finding, developing, and retaining the best people
- Establishing a set of shared values
- Creating a collaborative work environment where people are encouraged to learn from their mistakes
Before you bring in the right people, determine your needs: assess the strengths and gaps represented by your current team. Then, start looking for people who:
- Work in an environment with values like yours
- Have successfully been a member of another group or team
- Have had to teach others how to do what they do well
- Are currently customers who are passionate about your products or services
Next, test for the right abilities: as part of the evaluation process, ask each candidate to spend some time working or meeting with the team. Be sure to orient your new hires adequately. This means apprenticing them to advisers who exemplify your company's values and practices.
Give your new hires slack in terms of time, space, resources, and the opportunity to improvise. The goal is to encourage them to cross boundaries. Promote risk-taking and avoid imposing control structures that deny high-potential hires the experiences they need to grow. Remember that the most essential people on your team are not the best innovators--they're the people who know the best innovators and know how to bring them in.