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article imageOp-Ed: How to hire the most creative people available

By Paul Sloane     Nov 26, 2014 in Business
How can you change a corporate culture which is comfortable, complacent and risk averse into one which is dynamic, entrepreneurial and innovative?
One key action is to stop hiring comfortable, complacent risk avoiders and to start hiring dynamic, entrepreneurial innovators. The trouble is that managers tend to hire people who are like them and who will ‘fit in’ with the team. And the people who will fit in with a conventional, unadventurous team will probably have conventional, unadventurous views and attitudes.
Many managers who have a young team would be reluctant to add an older member or someone from a completely different background because of the fear that they might not fit in. But homogeneous teams are less effective than diverse ones. Studies show that teams that get on well together are less creative than teams where there is some contention. If people in a group nearly always agree with each then they are operating within their comfort zones. If you want more creative ideas and more innovation in your organization then you need to hire people who will think differently and challenge orthodox policies. Hiring managers should be told to avoid the natural inclination to hire people who will fit in and where possible to hire people with diverse backgrounds and people who display creative potential.
How can you spot creative thinkers, innovators and entrepreneurs? Here are some questions that you can ask at interview which might help.
How do you like to be managed? Do you like a boss who gives you lots of close support or one who lets you get on with it? Entrepreneurs like clear objectives and plenty of freedom in how to go about their work.
What are your main hobbies outside of work? What is fun for you? This type of question sheds light on how creative they are. Creative people do creative things outside of work. Someone who plays in a band, writes blogs or paints is more likely to be a lateral thinker than someone who enjoys watching TV, playing golf or going out with friends.
Tell me about a time that you took the initiative and solved a problem at work creatively. Do not take their answer at face value but ask some follow up questions to see just what their contribution really was.
Tell me about a time when you took a risk that failed. Creative entrepreneurial people are comfortable taking risks. They accept that failure is part of the process and they learn from it. Someone who had never failed has never tried anything new or adventurous.
How would you approach this kind of problem that we might have here? Give them a real or hypothetical question relating to a tough challenge that you could face. They should not give you a pat answer but should ask some questions and provide some possible ideas. You are testing their problem solving approach.
You can also try a problem that is unrelated to the job just to see how they think. E.g. if you were given the job of reducing traffic congestion in this city what creative approaches might you consider? There is no right answer here but there are plenty of safe predictable options. However, the lateral thinker is likely to come up with some unorthodox approaches.
Another good indicator at the interview is the type of question that they ask you. Offer the candidate the opportunity to ask questions. Do they ask detail-oriented, mundane questions or bigger picture, strategic questions?
If you want more innovation then you do not want a team of look-alikes who think alike. You want a mix of skills, experiences, backgrounds and attitudes. All the team members should buy into the values, vision and goals for the organisation. But if they have lots of different views about how best to achieve the goals then so much the better. Let’s welcome all those ideas, select the best ones and try them.
Paul Sloane gives keynote talks and workshops on lateral thinking and leadership. He is the author of The Leader's Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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