Hiring for innovation? Look for a misfit

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Adam Grant teed up a point of view that resonated with me at this week’s Annual SHRM conference. He essentially argues that cultural “fit” represents too strong an emphasis on homogeneity and that if we are hiring for innovation, we should really be looking for candidates who make a cultural “contribution.” This SHRM summary – How to Unleash Originality in Your Organization –  is a great read and worth some serious discussion by every employer bent on assessing candidates for their cultural fit. I’ll admit, he’s not really suggesting we pivot to hire misfits but lets at least imagine the possibilities we typically fail to consider.

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Grant is a well-known Wharton Professor and author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World (I love the book). During his presentation, he offered several ways organizations could help original thinkers contribute including:

  • Substituting a ‘Problem Box’ instead of a Suggestion Box
  • Making the Unfamiliar Familiar
  • Embracing Grumpy Givers
  • Conducting ‘Entry’ Interviews Instead of Relying on ‘Exit’ Interviews

I’ve never liked the term ‘cultural fit’ and always felt it was too loose a phrase to define operationally. As a consequence, I’m convinced it too often unintentionally contributes to unconscious bias.

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