There Is No Lone Genius. Hire a Team With These 4 Types.
There’s something romantic about the idea of the lone genius. The early success of GE is often attributed solely to the inspiration and perspiration of Thomas Edison. But experience and research both tell us that lasting success is built by teams that drive each other through collaboration, different skill sets and, yes, tension. It’s difficult to imagine the stratospheric successes of Steve Jobs without Stephen Wozniak or Mark Zuckerberg without Sheryl Sandberg. Edison had many collaborators and competitors who drove him, including the engineering genius Charles Steinmetz.
Diverse teams drive more innovation. Hiring people with different styles, backgrounds and experience increases the success of teams. My sense of what makes a successful team is constantly evolving, but these days I look for these four types when I hire.
1. The fish out of water.
People who are from, or have lived in, global markets expose the company to different mindsets and ways of approaching tasks. Different educational backgrounds also help foster critical thinking skills. Candidates who have studied anthropology and psychology, for example, bring keen observational skills to your team, which is especially good for early stage market and customer prototyping.
2. Someone who can FIO (Figure It Out).
Teammembers who can FIO are critical to navigating the ambiguity of the global economy, which no longer has a standard playbook. This quality isn’t necessarily detectable on a resume, so I like to give interviewees hypothetical but decidedly ambiguous scenarios and creative challenges laden with constraints to test their fortitude and creativity.
Still, there are some signs that someone has the skills to FIO. Anyone who has served in Teach for America, the Peace Corps or a similar organization has most likely been thrown into a leadership position in a challenging situation. I remember a candidate whose background in disaster relief for non-profits in locations ranging from Haiti to Somalia made me confident he could have figured anything out in the corporate world. Likewise, my work with GE’s Veterans Network has shown me that people with military service can perform complex tasks with scarce resources.
3. Candidates with design training.
Businesses need design thinking, and not just for creative roles. Design training helps people get a feel for the essence of an issue quickly. It also trains them to visualize concepts in a way that bring people together around a common narrative. Think of all the great ideas that started as sketches on the back of a napkin – that’s design thinking.
4. The well-balanced player.
Teams need specialized skillsets but they also need people who can work across disciplines and contribute in multiple ways. A few years ago at GE, we came up with a framework to define a well-rounded team called the 4 I’s: Instigator, Innovator, Integrator and Implementer. The 4 I’s are present, to some degree, in every candidate we interview but some people have them in just the right balance. Those people are often your team leaders.
Beth Comstock is a Marketer on a mission. Intrigued by ideas at the intersection of design & technology. CMO at GE. Aspiring innovator. Sometime writer. Relentless traveler.