Companies change. Products evolve. Approaches get thrown out the window. The centrifugal force alone of that kind of rapid development is enough to throw anyone off center. Throughout my experience, one guiding rule on team building in fast-moving companies has emerged: hire people, not skills.
It can be tempting when you’re first growing to hire someone specifically to fill a gap in your company’s skillset. If you hire someone for skills alone, however, they may lose balance as the company grows, when those skills are no longer as central or get placed into a different context. Each time I have built a team, personal traits – not professional skills – have been what propelled the company forward.
So, what traits matter? The answer is going to vary by company and founder, but I look for the following:
Cultural Fit (45%)
Fit is arguably the most important of any qualification. Start-ups can be very hard, and they become impossible if you don’t love the people around you. Getting the culture right is critical. No matter how stellar a candidate’s skills are, if they don’t fit well with your team, it won’t work out for anyone involved. Be careful here though: fit should not signal conformity. You do not need 12 identical personalities. You need a mix of people with differing perspectives but shared values. You need at team that is cohesive because of its differences.
Scrappiness and Drive (35%)
At Performable, we include scrappiness in the job description. We seek out people who have toppled challenges with very limited resources. This is not just about being lean. It is about the character of the team. The four most powerful words coming from a new hire are: “I’ll figure it out.” Find someone who you can trust to say that and follow through on it, and you’ve found a true asset.
This kind of drive is different than traditional ambition. Ambitious people will succeed at any task laid before them. They will personally excel, quickly rising from manager to director to vice president. A scrappy person who is driven does not rely on titles or defined responsibilities. He or she will push the company forward even when no one’s looking. Driven people move through the responsibilities on their lists, but also keep a constant eye on how the company as a whole can do things smarter and better.
Intelligence and Experience (15% and 5%, respectively)
Intelligence and experience are valuable, but a scrappy person who fits well on the team can learn fast. In a start-up, jobs are always changing. So when you think about intelligence and experience, make sure you are thinking about it in terms of a genuine hunger to learn and level of life-experience that enables the candidate to easily adapt and evolve.
Discovering these traits in candidates may come down to a gut feeling for many, but some of it can be illuminated by carefully posed questions and by getting a candidate outside of the typical interview set-up. Whenever possible change the setting, meet candidates outside of the office, at events or out for coffee. Get them talking rather than answering. Find out what it is that makes them tick.
What do you think about this video? “Incentivising senior employees very differently. Saw this incredibly interesting video recently. Was impressed not only by its surprising conclusions, but by its original way of presenting information. It’s certainly intriguing. I suspect that my senior people at Virgin will hope I don’t watch this video too often! What do you think about it? (via his blog)
It is a pretty cool video on management. And I agree that this original way of presenting information by RSA is very convincing. There are many more animated videos on their website or youtube channel. Great content and intriguing to watch. Thanks Richard for posting and thanks RSA for being a powerful and inspiring platform.
Are you a “webmaster”, admin, blog owner or someone with access to index.html files? Are you interested in taking part in the recent global wave of revolution from the comfort of your home computer? Occupy the Internet! (via graffitiresearchlab)
The book is dead. Long live the book.
Founded in September 2006 by James Bridle, booktwo.org exists to investigate, analyse, catalogue and debate the future of literature and the publishing industry.
Booktwo.org was founded out of a frustration with the failure of trade publishing to engage with new media and technology, a frustration reflected in the first essay: Birth Pangs of a new Literature. Over time, the industry has started to change, but booktwo.org continues to champion and challenge new literary forms and new publishing models.
James Bridle worked in a number of roles within and outside the publishing industry, from publicity and marketing to editorial, and from online strategy to web application development and production. His personal site can be found at shorttermmemoryloss.com.
(via CR Blog) Stunts, installations, neat tech ideas and UGC – advertising has been experimenting with all manner of new methods of engagement. Discovery Networks Europe’s Federico Gaggio and Patrick Burgoyne CR editor brought together some of the most significant of these ideas in a presentation for the Promax Conference. Here’s their overview of adland’s new directions
“Cool Shit” started as a presentation at the Promax Conference in LA in 2010 by Federico Gaggio, Executive Creative Director at Discovery Networks Europe, and CR editor Patrick Burgoyne (the title was the organisers’ by the way). It was designed to be an inspirational session, rounding up content showing new and interesting ways brands and advertisers had been using the power of digital and social media to establish deeper and more meaningful relationships with their audiences. Since then, updated versions have been presented in London, Berlin and New York. There have also been many requests from audience members for an online version of the presentation. As a general overview of some of the key developing themes in advertising, we thought it would be worth sharing here on the CR Blog. What follows is a transcript of the talk as written up by Gaggio. Read more
American duo Jessica Hische and Russ Maschmeyer. Their site Don’t Fear the Internet is a really great beginners’ guide to the fundamentals of web design, practical but in no way patronising. (via itsnicethat)
Are you a print designer, photographer, fine-artist, or general creative person? Do you have a shitty website that you slapped together yourself in Dreamweaver in that ONE web design class that you took in college? Do you not have a site at all because you’ve been waiting two years for your cousin to put it together for you? Well, we’re here to help. We know that you have little to no desire to do web design professionally, but that doesn’t mean that you want an ugly cookie-cutter site or to settle for one that hasn’t been updated since Hackerswas in theaters. Through short tutorial videos, you’ll learn how to take a basic wordpress blog and manipulate the css, html (and even some php!) to match your aesthetic. You’ll feel empowered rather than crippled by the internet and worst case scenario you’ll at least end up having a better idea of how professional web designers turn your design dreams into a reality on screen.
[via 99%, by Scott McDowell]
The ebb and flow of concentrated focus and total disengagement has been a subject
of particular interest to the composer, musician, and producer Brian Eno (U2,
Eric Tamm’s book, Brian Eno: His Music and The Vertical Sound of Color, delves
deeply into Eno’s “creative process.” Eno himself calls it:
…a practice of some kind … It quite frequently happens that you’re
just treading water for quite a long time. Nothing really dramatic
seems to be happening. … And then suddenly everything seems to
lock together in a different way. It’s like a crystallization point
where you can’t detect any single element having changed. There’s
a proverb that says that the fruit takes a long time to ripen, but it
falls suddenly … And that seems to be the process.
Throughout his career, Eno has used a grab bag of tools to assist the creative
process. “There are lots of ways that you can interfere with it and make it more
1. Freeform capture. Grab from a range of sources without editorializing.
According to Tamm, one of Eno’s tactics “involves keeping a microcassette tape
recorder on hand at all times and recording any stray ideas that hit him out of the
blue – a melody, a rhythm, a verbal phrase.” He’ll then go through and look for links
or connections, something that can form the foundation for a new piece of music.
2. Blank state. Start with new tools, from nothing, and toy around. For example,
Eno approaches this by entering the recording studio with no preconceived ideas,
only a set of instruments or a few musicians and “just dabble with sounds until
something starts to happen that suggests a texture.” When the sound texture evokes
a memory or emotion that impression then takes over in guiding the process.
3. Deliberate limitations. Before a project begins, develop specific limitations.
Eno’s example: “this piece is going to be three minutes and nineteen seconds long
and it’s going to have changes here, here and here, and there’s going to be a
convolution of events here, and there’s going to be a very fast rhythm here with a
very slow moving part over the top of it.”
4. Opposing forces. Sometimes it’s best to generate a forced collision of ideas.
Eno would “gather together a group of musicians who wouldn’t normally work
together.” Dissimilar background and approaches can often evoke fresh thinking.
5. Creative prompts. In the ‘70s Eno developed his Oblique Strategies cards, a
series of prompts modeled after the I Ching to disrupt the process and encourage a
new way of encountering a creative problem. On the cards are statements and
questions like: “Would anybody want it?” “Try faking it!” “Only a part, not the
whole.” “Work at a different speed.” “Disconnect from desire.” “Turn it upside
down.” “Use an old idea.” These prompts are a method of generating specifics, which
most creatives respond favorably to.
In the end, don’t underestimate your personal feelings about a project. Eno states:
“Nearly all the things I do that are of any merit at all start off as just being good
fun.” Amen to that.
How Do You Spark Creative Breakthroughs?
Where do you get your best ideas?
What strategies do you use to give your creative mind a kick?
Scott McDowell works with business leaders and creative teams to ease
collaboration. He’s also a DJ at WFMU. Follow Scott @mcd_owell.