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  • Writer's pictureDaniel GreenLeaf

You want innovation? Get out of your own way and hire differently!

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

I constantly hear technology leaders wanting to be innovative. Most companies want to be industry leaders and create new and innovative solutions. To do this, they go out and hire experienced technologists who have years of experience working on similar projects and tell them to get to work. The general thinking is, “we have to move fast, and don’t have time to train anyone new.” In fact, this line of thinking is so common, it is accepted as fact by most technology leaders.

Mark my words, the idea that hiring only experienced people will lead to faster innovation is a false assumption, one that will be proven wrong in the coming years. Just as we have seen Agile prove rapid development is possible, scaling agile is possible, employees are only motivated by more than just economic incentives (Scientific Management), and so many other commonly accepted ideas have been proven wrong over the years.

People with diverse backgrounds bring different ways of thinking to the table. Diversity is more than just race, gender, age, sexual orientation. Diversity includes lifetime experiences, careers, jobs, cultures, languages spoken, countries lived in, and more.

I have had the privilege of helping several women join tech as a second career. I have found each of them to benefit our team and our outcomes in ways I couldn’t have imagined. They say you never really master a skill until you teach it, and I found myself solidifying old skills in ways I couldn’t predict. Many more times than I like to admit, I would teach one of these new hires something we did. But in teaching them, I would have to explain why we did it ‘the wrong way'. To which I would question myself why we were doing it the wrong way, and then often proceed to fix it.

But the big benefits came when we got past the initial onboarding. These new hires with diverse experience in other fields would come up with ideas that we would never think of. Their experiences would seem like innovations to us, but to them were just how they had always done things. From building out support systems and operations management to creating easy-to-understand user instructions. I have personally witnessed dozens of ideas come to fruition that my tech team of traditional backgrounds would never have thought of.

So how does one fix this problem? As an agilest at heart, I say start with an MVP, if it works do more. If it doesn’t tune and adjust. Try hiring 1 person in the next 90 days that has a non-traditional background. Do all of your BAs, SMs, PMs, etc. need to have experience in that role? What roles could someone start in?

About the author:

Dan GreenLeaf is a technology community leader based in Columbus Ohio. He has been an Agile Coach, Delivery Director, Project Manager, and many more roles. He is currently the COO of Transcendio, a company that focuses on helping women and minorities join IT as a second career.

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