Sunday, 28 February 2010


Companies thrive on innovation, but the human beings who make up those companies inevitably favour certain ways of working. They also favour working with people like themselves, so they tend to hire people who also like that same way of working. So where is the innovation going to come from?

According to Robert Sutton, professor of management science at Stanford, it comes from hiring people you don't like. Perhaps not people you actively dislike, but certainly people who make you a bit uncomfortable, people who think differently and disagree with you. They probably won't be impressed with the way you do things. Which makes them much more likely to come up with a better way.

This sounds about right to me. As someone who innovates and manages the process of innovation into delivery I regularly study innovation and thinking techniques. I do this because I don't really subscribe to the idea that the ability to create and generate ideas is purely talent based, or something some people have but others do not. I think really good thinking and innovation is a practice or a skill and like all good practices people can develop better ways of thinking and generating ideas. I mention all this because I often feel that one way you can help the innovation process is to be the person who says different things or takes a different perspective. So, along with actively employing people who are different or who you don't exactly like, you can also engender a culture of 'good thinking' and introduce techniques for idea generation that achieve a similar if not the same result.

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