Hiring Innovators: A Key to Adapting to the Changing Business World

Editor’s Note: Dr. John Sullivan has been a strategist in HR and talent management for over 30 years. His specialty is HR strategy and designing world class HR systems and tools for Fortune 200 firms. He’s never been shy about telling it like it is.

That’s why TLNT asked him to share his thinking in a video series titled “$#*!@ Dr. John Sullivan Says!” Look for these videos weekly here at TLNT.

Here’s a simple query posed by Dr. John Sullivan: “Should you hire people that fit the organization?”

It’s not a trick question. Dr. John asks why would you or your organization hire misfits or people who stand out and are going to cause problems? That logically doesn’t make any sense.

You need to hire innovators — and innovators don’t fit

“I might have agreed with that five years ago,” he says, “but I wouldn’t now.” That’s because we are in an era of rapid, unpredictable business change, and there is nothing that ties a company down and makes them unable to make rapid changes than organizational fit or organizational culture. “When you hire people that historically fit,” he notes, they might not be able to fit in the modern, quickly changing and evolving business environment.

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So, to change quickly in today’s business world, you need to hire innovators — “and innovators, by definition, don’t fit.”

Dr. John calls these people “fist pounders,” those people who are angry and pound their fist when they are confronted with the status quo thinking of ‘we’ve always done it like this.”

To succeed in a business world where things are changing rapidly every day, “we need people who are agile … we need people who learn rapidly … we need people who constantly change…. you have to learn fast, you need to adapt fast, because whatever was true yesterday is not true today, and whatever worked yesterday won’t work tomorrow… (you need to) hire people that change, that adapt, that are agile instead of those that (just) fit during any period of time.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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