As an entrepreneur or innovator, your primary goal is to create a new, interesting and most importantly valuable business. The act of creating and sustaining a business balances two very important and often competing interests: competency and creativity. Creativity provides the insights to recognize an opportunity and build a compelling solution. Competency provides the ability to build the best, most effective and efficient solution and run the business competently. Guess which one most businesses emphasize? That's right, competency, because companies and their leaders view the creation act as a one-time event, while believing competency is what matters thereafter.

Ancient History

We value competence in building and running a business because getting up to scale and maintaining an efficient, effective business model has been the path to success for quite some time.

However, this belief is outdated and increasingly wrong. A quick look at any large company that is trying to "win" through efficient management is sure to illustrate the fact that most of these companies are trying to sustain revenue while cutting costs and striving for ever more efficiency, doubling down on the "competency" side of the ledger.

That is what worked for decades, because change was slow, competition was predictable. In most businesses we've de-emphasized creativity and over-emphasized competency because that's what the environment and the competitive landscape allowed. Those days are over.

Shifting Skills

Today, and even more so in the future, your business needs to emphasize creativity over competency. This doesn't mean you don't need competent workers who can build a sustainable business. The rapid shifts brought on by the internet, social media, the Internet of Things and so on will simply make it more difficult to reach a "steady state" plateau where you can simply tweak the business model around the edges.

Instead you'll need to be nimble and agile, and able to reinvent the business more rapidly and more frequently. If your entire team is built around competency experts, you'll struggle to remain nimble and find it especially difficult to reinvent your models and your offerings. It's very likely your team needs new skills.

What this means

You need to learn how to assess candidates and hire people with more creative insight. This starts by how you interview potential candidates. Ask questions that give you insight into a candidate's willingness and ability to stretch their own thinking. Ask for examples of creative output, of times when they introduced and realized radically different ideas.

Further, you need to encourage and inculcate more creativity in your workforce. First, help existing employees understand why more creativity is so important. Then develop their creative abilities through training. Improv training is a great first step in this regard. Evaluate your compensation and recognition systems, because they are likely biased toward competency rather than creativity.

In the future, reinventing and reshaping a business and its operations and business models will be as important, if not more important, than sustaining effectiveness and efficiency. As this reality changes, it means your employees skills and capabilities must change.

Published on: Sep 12, 2017