Can innovation and fit work together?

Black and white, arm movement, crowd of men


Recruiting for key positions is a risky business, isn’t it? Candidates are on their best behaviour during selection. You expect them to know more about you than you do about them. That’s just homework. They’ve got to be interested enough to do a bit of digging, right?

They wow you with their knowledge and their CV looks great. Their current employer loves them and feels sure they’ll ‘fit’ wherever they land.

You take them on and the appointment works out. The ‘fit’ is indeed perfect and the cultural match looks great. So why can’t you innovate any better than you did before they arrived?

Um, because they ‘fit’. You chose more of the same, based on the range you let the recruitment agency put in front of you. When you specified MBA/Masters, the outlier was a 2:1.

Across your team, you’ve got classical training, industry knowledge, regulatory awareness, ethical rigour and a list of contacts that everybody around the board table brought with them. But outside the boardroom, where your clients live, you’ve got emerging technology, insurgent competition, start-up mindsets and new brand owners with a consumer-focused obsession. This is your marketplace, but you probably don’t see it like this – yet.

If anything in what you’ve just read strikes a chord, your business is probably organised in line with standard practice: you have an annual plan with a growth target of some kind (revenue/EBITDA/distribution gains/ROI…) and your team reports on financial metrics every month.

Question: Is innovation a concept that sits at the heart of what you do? Do you think it should be?

I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting that the department responsible for your innovation plan is Marketing. And the one voice at the board table who sounds most out of tune with your team every time you meet is the person responsible for Marketing. What Marketing knows is that your customers are who you serve, and while you’re busy talking about your financial reports, they’re already buying somebody else’s product.

If you’ve read my blogs before, there’s a chance you’ve seen a quote I took from an old PwC report that says 75% of the biggest and most established companies will lose their position in their chosen index (NASDAQ/FT/S&P) to companies they haven’t even heard of yet, and that the average lifespan of a company is now less than fifteen years.

There are loads (and loads) of reports on culture and team efficiency. This one is from 2016 and considers how CEOs recruited to do a job may need to review their own effectiveness: (Do similarities or differences between CEO leadership and organizational culture have a more positive effect on firm performance? A test of competing predictions).

One of its authors, Chad A. Hartnell, says, ‘The more you misfit, the more you contribute’ – but that still relies on your company being on the right mission. I believe that innovation should be written into your business mission as a core element – not a bolt-on owned by a single department.

To see the direction of change in your market, consumer behaviour and affecting technology amounts to nothing more than the same level of interest you expect from interview candidates – doing your homework. When you have the view of your future market, you can plan how to present yourself in it. This is where innovation stops being just a word and becomes a strategic factor that drives the other planning and reporting metrics.

How to start? To recruit people for ‘fit’ can work, but it’s also good to inject some mis-fit to stimulate the mission. Innovation provides the opportunity to get some external moderation to lead an innovation process. Looking critically at what your consumers are doing, what your competitors are doing, and considering what they will be doing provides you with the perspective you need to see things differently.

Innovation doesn’t come as a one-size-fits-all proposition. It’s a highly-personalised endeavour and it’s why I’d love to talk to you.

Seeing it differently. Future Proofing. It’s what we do.