Getting the Right People to Run Your Innovation Machine

Part 2 in Our Series Looking At HR’s Impact on Innovation

No matter how your company executes on its innovation initiatives, you need the right talent to make it happen. You need the right people to make the innovation machine work the way it should. Those who say they are innovative in actuality may not have fundamental qualities needed to be successful. Those who say they aren’t innovative may have just the qualities needed to ensure success. How do you tell? How do you select the right people for your innovation initiatives? Here are some of the best practices we’ve seen that might help.

Opening the Door to Innovation Through Hiring

Some of today’s most innovative corporate cultures are testing and proving ways to identify and hire individuals who can accelerate and sustain innovation. Below are a few of their secrets you could consider using in your own culture:


On the informal side, organizations can use innovation “experiences” to draw out and identify effective innovation talent. We’ve seen effective results from exposing employees to startup-like experiences. Nurturing startup-like tendencies through internal events that mimic or simulate a startup experience — think Startup Weekend, but for internal initiatives — can be a good place to start. These workshops are where HR and company leaders can see how people perform in innovative, fast-moving situations. Most employees don’t have opportunities to show these skills in their day-to-day work. Think of it as a job tryout before a job opens.

Cash Incentives

Cold, hard cash creates a highly-motivating challenge for employees to come up with big ideas in a short time. One transportation company we work with gives people three weeks and $3,000 to test out an idea and take it as far as they can on their own. One caveat to this: keep in mind that the best idea generators are not always the best idea executors. It takes a variety of roles for innovation to succeed.

Modified Assessments

On the formal side, companies are conducting professional audits of hiring and development assessments to make sure they capture the correct dynamics for innovation team members. Tools recently developed specifically for this include Gallup’s EP10, Entrepreneur EDGE tool, and the FourSight assessment, which differentiates between four thinking styles needed for successful innovation: Clarifier, Ideator, Developer and Implementer. If you’re already using an assessment, don’t throw it out quite yet. Take a look to audit and refine your current assessment tools to see if they can be used for identifying intrapreneurs and innovation managers. Speaking of innovation managers, sometimes identifying those who lead innovation teams can be an even more critical task than selecting the team members themselves. (More about this in the next blog in this series).

It can be difficult to convince management to spend time and money to do this right. But we know from experience the only way to get it done is with HR’s help, putting the right tools and methods into the hands of the right people to maximize a company’s innovation potential.

Thanks for reading — We’re Econic and we help companies map and execute innovation. If you liked this post, we’d love for you to share it. Click the green heart below and Tweet it.

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Josh Berry & Brian Ardinger