Innovators share a handful of core traits. They are creative and optimistic; comfortable with ambiguity and brave enough to build new-to-the-world things. Above all, they possess something called “informed intuition,” a highly developed sense of what is awesome and what is not, what will work and what won’t. Steve Jobs had informed intuition in spades.
But that quality can be hard to hire for, especially if you’re looking at classic measures of experience, like years in a job or titles. There’s a better way.
My point of view on hiring for informed intuition comes from something
Indiana Jones said to Marion after being shot at, punched up, and dragged under
a truck. In the scene (from the first movie, the really good one), he
was explaining to her that, while getting older, it was the physical wear and
tear that was the issue:
“It’s not the years, honey;” he said, “it’s the
Back to informed intuition, a sixth sense that comes from participating in
the entire innovation process, from start to finish. Each time you take
something to market, you experience a complete cycle, learning from failures
along the way. That’s mileage. As you rack up more of it, your
intuition sharpens. And it builds the confidence you’ll need to get through the
tortuous ambiguity and self-doubt that come with bringing new stuff into the
So when I’m looking to hire someone, I use a positive spin on Indiana Jones’
mileage maxim: You don't need years of experience to have earned high mileage.
The key here is that mileage—the number of times you’ve taken something to
market—trumps years on the job. By the way, mileage can come from anywhere: I
look for life experiences where people created something from nothing. For
example, before arriving at IDEO, MBAs I’ve hired as business designers have
built everything from a clothing brand to an entire house.
Unfortunately, in certain organizations, you can work for years and never
ship anything. It’s not unusual to find a computer programmer with 10 years in a
Fortune 100 setting who hasn’t experienced a complete product development
But that junior programmer, the one who’s been hacking iPhone apps from a
dorm room for the past five years and shipping something new monthly? In my
world, she’s a veteran. She’s experienced the real highs (people love it!) and
lows (nobody bought it!) of product development. Though on paper she has very
little traditional job experience, from an Indiana Jones point of view, she has
much more innovation mileage than that big-company programmer.
And, all other things being equal, she’s the one I’d hire.
Originally Posted On : Linked In By: Diego Rodriguez
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