Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Smart Creatives and 5 Ways to Keep Them

Earlier this month, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman at Google, published something on Slideshare that made my heart beat faster than usual. It was not a research report, nor a business education book, but something much more powerful --- an insight into how Google ensures its profitability and sustainability for the future. Acknowledging the fast pace of the modern-day world, instability and dependency on human capital, Eric explains how "smart creatives" bring innovation and fluidity into the organization. Go ahead and check his presentation:

So, here's Eric's formula:




I have come up with 5 ideas on helping the smart creatives thrive and stay with the company longer.

1. Cross-pollinate.
  • Innovation comes from combination. Instead of encouraging silos, make sure that employees from different departments, geographies, business units, etc. share openly and try things out together. Make diversity work. Collaboration should not be a value on the wall but a way that the organization thinks and lives.

2. Do not underestimate deep expertise.
  • It is a natural tendency to spend money and other resources on developing broad professionals (think MBAs). Fair enough: growing general managers for your business is a dire need and it will be even more acute in the future. Yet, balance investment into Hi-Potentials with that into High-Professionals. Technical knowledge does not appear out of thin air: it needs to be cultivated, retained, transferred, taught. You need it to create really great products (think Apple). 

3. Reward honest mistakes.
  • Honest mistake does not equal failure. It means that you have tried and learnt. It means that your brain has worked in a new way, since, had you been following the instructions, you would not have made that mistake. Yes, well-done, you have tried novel methods! One never knows which idea will be the next Uber or Netflix

4. Teach coping with failure.
  • Success lies not in avoiding failures, but in quick recovery after something bad has happened. Encourage people to try. Make sure they learn the lessons and move on. See the previous point. 

5. Change the business for the talent you need, not vice versa.
  • As Daniel Pink said in his book A Whole New Mind, unless you work with the right side of your brain, soon your job will not only be outsourced, it will be automated. Computers can follow algorithms, but true creativity and innovation comes from humans. Those skills will become more and more valuable. Those professionals will be less and less loyal. So, don't try to hold them to fit your company, as they'll flee places where they don't feel at home, but rather change your workplace to attract and keep the smart creatives.

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