Definition of Insanity

The Definition of Insanity: Hiring Safe yet Expecting Astonishing Results

Finding a new team member is hard. You spend time and energy recruiting the ideal candidate who’s a great fit. But let’s question what ‘a great fit’  really means. In your mind a great fit probably means the candidate from the same industry, who’s followed a progressive path in the same job stream to lead them to this next step. But this is playing it safe, it risks limiting you and your company and you’re unlikely to find candidates that bring unique innovation and exceptional results.

No Industry Experience, No Problem

Inside industry hires are considered “low-risk” hires because the market has already validated the quality of the hire i.e. because they have worked for the competition they know how to do the job, considering they’ve done it well enough so far to keep their job. We also have a reasonable understanding of the market’s perception of that employee’s value (salary). Furthermore, your hiring managers will need less time to train an industry hire versus someone with “transferrable skills”.

But isn’t adding new talent into your team always a risk? Hiring someone from the outside brings diversity, as different backgrounds and opinions benefit the business in ways not achieved by more-of- the-same approach. After all isn’t “thinking outside the box” a metaphor that is reiterated because it works and promotes innovation?

Milan Martin, former President at Grey Advertising Group explains how he really understands this way of thinking “companies and executives often look to hire people for critical leadership roles who have done that same job, in the same category at a competitive company.  It feels safe to “plug and play”, but “if the company aspires to break a mold, to win more than their fair share of the category, then this seems like a path to mediocrity. We all know the definition of insanity.  Only hiring people who’ve worked in your category is the quickest path to a recycled play book of strategies and tactics that have lost their sharp edge from overuse”.

Bringing in A Fresh Approach

Here are 5 reasons why you should take a risk on a non-industry hire.

  1. People who have been immersed in one industry for years on end can lose their ability to have perspective.
  2. A candidate who has the passion to learn a new industry, product, or service can breathe new life into your organization. They will take their previous experiences at other industries and translate it to yours.
  3. They will not hesitate to question your current process or methods and this will invite a conversation that often needs to happen. Outsiders are not constrained by internal best practices or even industry norms.

According to Alan Ett, CEO of AECG, a Los Angeles media and entertainment company, “in today’s world of convergence I feel it is ever more important to not necessarily fill a role with someone who has done that exact job before but someone who brings creativity and vision to every position. If we want to disrupt, or advance, or even keep up with the monumental changes surrounding us every day we must look at new ways to do things. That means bringing fresh talent sets and points of view to every position. The fundamentals of a job can be learned. Vision and creativity cannot”.

Milan Martin also shared what he calls ‘a dirty little secret’ that many of us chose to ignore …. our businesses aren’t so complex or nuanced that smart people who’ve succeeded in wildly different, unrelated categories can’t quickly ‘get it’ and bring reams of fresh thinking to the mix.

  1. Outside industry candidates will be motivated to prove themselves. Someone who has a track record in your industry may be complacent and feel the monotony of doing the same thing for another five years. Someone from another industry will pedal fast to learn and put in 150% effort to every detail of the job, half out of appetite to impress and learn, half out of (a positive) anxiety of failing.
  1. Take it one step further, imagine your star employee – she has proven herself, you’d really like to retain her, she’s highly committed to the company and is ready to continue to grow. There’s a role open she indicates she is passionate about and already has new ideas, and a plan in mind for this area of the business. What if the skills you’d usually look for in this open role don’t appear on her resume? What are the costs if you promote her anyway? What are the costs if you don’t? According to William Vanderbloemen of Forbes “you’ve got to be willing to take some risk in promoting your rockstar employees to jobs their resumes may not qualify them for. If you don’t give them the opportunity to grow, they’ll go to someone who will”.  Hire someone not only based on what role they have held in the past or their industry but instead because they are motivated, challenged, and dedicated to this new opportunity.

Milan Martin argues that “creativity is the new currency of our modern world. Where ‘experience’ ruled for the past 100 years in the industrial revolution (repeating the same task over and over), the modern economy requires the ability to look at a situation and apply exciting, new thinking to it in order to achieve extraordinary results”.

Let’s open our minds, bet on proven brilliance and take calculated risks on people who have shown their abilities to excel – even if that was in a different setting.  To innovate we must be agile and pivot. People with passion, drive, who have achieved extraordinary outcomes in previous roles, are a risk worth taking.