Can the quest for Cultural Fit stifle Innovation?

Cultural Fit and Innovation are big buzz words in the Recruitment and HR industry currently, but I’ve been pondering whether the two business objectives can actually counteract each other?

Cultural Fit is ‘the likelihood that a job candidate will be able to conform and adapt to the core values and collective behaviours that make up an organisation’, and a good Cultural Fit should be a key objective when hiring for most companies.

Fitting in well within an organisation, getting on with your teammates and managers has many advantages such as

  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Feeling part of the company
  • Being more loyal and therefore likely to stay longer
  • Showing commitment and superior job performance

However, companies that desire Innovation above all else may find that if they concentrate on Cultural Fit they miss the actual innovators or creators that will provide their future success.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt says ‘The characteristic of great innovators and great companies is they see a space that others do not’.

Think about the following famous innovators or influencers….

Newton, Einstein, Mozart, Michelangelo, Bill Gates, Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, Warhol, Tim Burton, Temple Grandin, Mark Twain, Michael Jackson, Alfred Hitchcock, Michael Palin, Henry Ford, Jane Austen, Hans Christian Anderson, JimHenson, George Orwell, Beethoven, Thomas Edison, Woody Allen, Alan Turing

Ford the innovator

They are all thought to be on the Autistic Spectrum by many. Some are undiagnosed and unproven, and may only be socially awkward. That in itself may still create issues with Cultural Fit.

Would these types of great pioneer fit in well with your company culture or would they struggle to get through an interview?

They might face rejection for being a bit different and cause concern that they won’t gel with the team. Many may have issues with eye contact, understanding social nuance or answering questions in a seemingly inappropriate way due to their literal interpretations (as do many on the Autistic Spectrum).

It could take a while for a team to get used to working with someone with Autism, but culture should be adaptable and flexible enough to change. Greater knowledge of Autism may enable a great fit given the right circumstances, care and understanding.

Successful innovative teams are often made up of a mixture of people who can collaborate together but with different viewpoints. Cultures should allow for those different views rather than run the risk of stunting innovation or creating unintentional discrimination.

And the key advantages of Cultural Fit strangely align with Autistic traits such as loyalty, commitment and superior job performance.

As Einstein said (allegedly) — ‘we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’.

Let us start thinking differently and enable a wider Cultural Fit assessment to include innovators and creators especially from the 85% of people with Autism currently unemployed globally.

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