“We cannot solve our problems from the same level of thinking that created them.” – Albert Einstein
When I was 24 years old, I embarked on my first-ever hiring journey. I had just been tapped by a 40-year-old media firm to start, from the ground-up, a content marketing division for the company. There were some sizeable revenue and client goals (scale from 0 to 100 clients by the end of Year 1), as well as some brand goals (become content marketing thought leaders). But by far, the most challenging piece was hiring a team of five marketers.
Like any recent college grad, I had zero recruitment or hiring experience. And, like any recent college grad, I also had a lot to prove.
The first three hires were easy. I had worked with three individuals from another division within the same company before and so I petitioned to bring them over. 3 out of 5 done just like that!
The next two were trickier.
I spent weeks upon weeks combing through resumes, interviewing candidates and playing out “what if” scenarios. About halfway into the process, I started to see some familiar names pop up on resumes as they had worked with former colleagues of mine. One candidate in particular caught my eye. I knew from his reputation that he was an incredible writer, a masterful strategist and diligent. We had some mutual contacts so while I didn’t know him personally, he felt like a great option for building my team because he was “known.” At the time, I was deathly afraid of “stranger danger!”
And so I rounded out my team of five with three people I had already worked with previously, one person I knew from other contacts, and one (just one!) “stranger.”
In some ways, this approach worked perfectly for Year 1. Our team of five was able to hit the ground running immediately as we already respected one another. What’s more, because most of us had known each other previously—and came from the same industries—we tended to agree a lot when it came to creative discussions.
But in Year 2, things began to shift.
As our division grew and hit new growth markers, so did the pressure to remain ahead of industry trends and demonstrate new levels of creative thought. Suddenly, a team that “all thinks the same” hurt us. The fact that so many of us had worked together previously held us back.
As we grew, I had to start to evolve my hiring strategies and bring on “strangers.” Folks with different backgrounds. Professionals who were willing to look at challenges our original team had not been able to solve and introduce new ways of thinking.
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Some original team members loved our pivot. They welcomed in the new team members and committed to challenging themselves creatively. They became students of our industry, started attending professional training events, receiving mentorship from outside the organization, and so on.
Others struggled. They didn’t want to evolve in ways that the division demanded. They didn’t work collaboratively with our newest members as they were viewed as a threat to the status quo. They slowly moved from being engaged to being disengaged to being detractors. Unfortunately, some had to be exited from the company that year in a painfully tough decision.
When I look back, I can see with great clarity how our “known-ness” and “sameness” both helped and held us back. Sometimes I think I made the perfect decisions for that inaugural year in ensuring that I had a team that was ready to work together and problem-solve from a place of cohesion. We hit our revenue goals. We retained clients. We became thought leaders in the industry.
But Year 2 is when we soared. Year 2 is when we took the training wheels off. Year 2 is when we went from a “hobby” company to a successful company because we were willing to challenge and evolve every single part of our business.
As business leaders, we have a responsibility to embrace diversity of thought and perspective if we want to hit new levels of growth.
If we don’t, we stay the course. We hire people we know. We hit good revenue targets but not great ones. We retain talent but don’t attract the new talent we desperately need. We miss opportunities for innovation and transformation. We fail to spot organizational waste and inefficiency. We do things because that’s what way it’s always been done.
When we don’t embrace diversity of thought and perspective, we cause growth to come to a screeching halt. This happens even faster now with a rapidly-shifting business landscape.
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As humans, we can be particularly reticent to diversity of thought and perspective because oftentimes it means challenging our assumptions and beliefs. It means admitting we may be off course. Sometimes, it means having to make tough decisions about our team. And every time, it means having to be humble enough to hold up the mirror.
But imagine how much more effective your business and teams would be if you willingly embraced outside perspective? If you asked for objective advice and input more regularly? If you were willing to admit that you may be too close to the challenge to appropriately solve it?
This week, hold up the mirror. See what it says back to you. Are you in need of some fresh perspective? Does your business depend on it? Chances are… the answer is “yes.”
Are you in need of some fresh perspective? Our Consulting & Advisory Services pair you with hyper-specialists and strategists to help you start thinking differently about your next big opportunity. Ready to hold the mirror up? Click here.