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Your competitive edge is hiding in that pile of résumés.

You know this already: the wave of disruptive innovation will eventually transform every business industry. The majority of businesses are already under threat from a new generation of challengers. In order to maintain your company’s position in the marketplace, the development of innovative products and solutions is critical.

What you may not have realised: innovation doesn’t start in one particular department or workshop – it starts in your hiring practices.

More of the Same

Your hiring managers are likely looking at candidates who share the traits of your most successful employees. Industry experience, a degree, and the “right” answers to hypothetical situations heavily influence their evaluation of a potential hire. This is a great way to hire more of the same talent, which you may want to do in some situations. But innovation requires difference; people whose problem-solving runs counter to the norm, who can spot potential pitfalls and inefficiencies that others miss.

A workplace culture of diverse thinkers keeps your employees on their toes, ensuring high levels of employee engagement, challenge and curiosity. In return, this environment positively impacts performance, employee retention, market position and returns on investment.

Innovations in how your business measures and tracks data, for example, can lead to anticipating market shifts. Suddenly, you’re in a better position than your competitor when an opportunity arises. The best forms of innovation come in small steps, creating and revising processes by which your company, customer journey and products function. (This is how we won Google Adopt A Startup, by the way.)

Not Like the Other

Hiring for thought diversity can feel risky and counter-intuitive at first. Consider this example from University of Michigan economist Scott Page in his book The Difference: You interview three candidates; let’s call them Jeff, Rose, and Spencer. Of the same 10 questions, Jeff answered seven right, Rose six, and Spencer only five. Most companies would hire Jeff or Rose, the two candidates with the highest scores. But Spencer was able to answer questions that Jeff and Rose missed; his different way of thinking might make Spencer the smarter hire.

Clues to Spot the Talent You’re Missing

We have a pretty diverse crew at UrbanVolt, so we know a thing or two about crafting innovative teams. A few clues that job applicant may have the missing ingredient you need:

  • They were a double major, or have two distinct career paths. By studying two different subjects or successfully navigating a major career shift, these candidates have already demonstrated their ability to switch between modes of thinking. Just ask our Senior Commercial Manager, Fiona, who was a successful professional photographer, and is now the mastermind behind our new online pricing tool.

  • They have great experience, but a degree in something unrelated. Look closely at that “irrelevant” degree; chances are it’s given a candidate some unique transferable skills. Our Marketing Manager, Anne, has degrees in anthropology that taught her to seek the customer motivations and emotions behind big data trends.

  • They have a major passion or hobby outside work. Because they have honed their ability to switch from one activity to another in their daily routine, these individuals are less likely to get stuck in an ‘ideas rut’ or be overwhelmed by multiple priorities. Our Business Development Lead, Hannah, flexes her strategy and teamwork skills on her field hockey team and on inbound digital workflows.

  • They give unexpected, but intriguing, solutions to your interview questions. We have a trusty interview question that we always use: “What risk do we take in hiring you?” Most candidates carefully sidestep this question, highlighting what makes them attractive. Our Business Implementation Specialist, Sarah, elaborated a risk-benefit analysis of her candidacy from the company’s perspective. Her ability to jump into the viewpoint of our clients has been invaluable in designing our online user experience.

By hiring for thought diversity, companies invest in their long-term success. We hope we’ve convinced you to fill thinking gaps by changing how you look at job applicants, and to your existing employees to drive innovative collaboration.