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Exploding Creativity

October 25th, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Hiring for Creativity

The October 2010 issue of Inc Magazine had a guide on How To: Hire for Creativity. This is well aligned with my podcast Episode 6: Leadership and Creativity.

The guide opens with certain points about finding creative people, like it can be time-consuming and that a creative person in a non-creative job will be frustrated. All well and good, but then it quotes someone saying:

It’s most important when it’s going to cost you a lot of money if the new hire makes a mistake.

As has been written & spoken about in this blog & podcast and elsewhere, tolerance for failure and mistakes, and even expecting and embracing them, is inherent in the cultures of creative organizations. Let’s just tolerate the above quote as a mistake.

The guide continues with the steps in finding innovators, starting with the basic managerial decision making process of defining what it is you want. (Brought to mind Episode 4: Decision Making and Creativity.) This part mentioned breadth creativity—seeing the big picture—vs. depth creativity—ingenuity within a specific realm. This part discusses how many companies find it difficult to integrate truly outside-the-box thinkers, but also says that if you find your organization has a limited acceptance of creativity, then you may need to “refurbish the company culture,” and offers advice for that in a side panel (see below).

The next step is to attract the talent. Convey the organization’s goals and values in each communication medium, and add some flair to your job postings. The job postings can also be used to filter for specific kinds of creativity, like asking the candidates to submit samples of their work or asking for proposed solutions to a specific challenge they may face on the job. And consider looking outside your organization’s industry to perhaps find someone with a different perspective (which brought to mind Episode 5: Diversity and Creativity…ah, the memories…). This part ended with the statement:

Expertise can be acquired; creativity generally can’t.

I guess I’ll have to tolerate that as another mistake. I certainly hope this website is helping people in their pursuit of acquiring greater creativity. If nothing else, just click on the Creativity Tips and Techniques link in the Categories section on the right hand side of each webpage here; that should help in picking up tools to help make you more creative.

The last step in finding innovators deals with the interview process. Behavioral interviewing is discussed (“Tell me about a time when you…”, “Describe an experience when you…”). You can ask the candidate to describe a time when they faced a new situation and how they dealt with it, or ask them to respond to a situation your team recently faced and how they would have approached it. The key here is to evaluate the candidate’s thought processes; look for alternatives and trade-offs, taking into account different perspectives and stakeholders, coming up with development plans, or whatever you think is appropriate.

Other interviewing techniques written about were having the candidate create sample work (writing, art, design), putting the candidate in a role-playing scenario, and giving them a writing exercise, like coming up with a marketing plan in 30 minutes.

The end of the guide contained two sidebars. One was on Building a Creative Culture, making the point that you’ll need to find ways to inspire and motivate a creative team (really, any kind of team), and for creative people:

  • Inspire with work, as work itself is a primary motivator. I find this to be exceptionally true: when I’m tired and not feeling well, when I’m working in the groove I don’t notice feeling bad at all, but when I stop to take a break, that’s when the feelings of being sick & tired set in.
  • Compensate with care. You don’t want your people feeling manipulated, and you don’t want them to feel unappreciated.
  • Create happiness, as people felt more creative when they were happy. Or at least don’t create unhappiness, if possible.

The second sidebar gave suggestions for specific questions on how to probe a candidate for creativity. I’ll let you read article on Inc.com for that.

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