Innovate or Die

Tips on hiring people with a creative and innovative mindset

If you want to run a company that drives new revenue from innovation, the source of most new revenues, then you have to hire creative individuals with an innovative mindset.

How do you do that?

STR-Steininger-Team-shotKatherine Power, chief executive officer of Clique Media Group, a media and marketing agency, held forth in a recent interview in the New York Times explaining how she attempts to identify innovative hires. Her insights include:

  • If the candidate wrote for XYZ publication, did he produce articles which suggested new ways of getting revenue?
  • She asks the candidates when they go home at night, what would they describe as having had a great day?
  • What have they done to create their own experiences, such as a new blog or initiatives within their prior companies which demonstrated the willingness to try something new and unusual, and what was that?
  • She will even ask them how they saved their company money in a creative fashion.

Here’s what some of our local leaders have to say about what they do to look for individuals they consider creative or innovative when they bring on talent:

Cynthia LaConte, CEO of Dohmen, a highly successful life sciences company in the Third Ward, says:

“At Dohmen, we’re always looking for people that are inherently curious and can perceive the world in different ways. That’s what keeps our business fresh and relevant. But there’s a fine line between creativity and chaos. A company is a living system – a collective of individuals that navigate as a unit. So you need to establish whether candidates can connect to your company’s purpose. I always ask interview questions that explore whether there’s a match to our vision and values. Remember – “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!’”

She’s a leader who gets it and that’s why her company is going places no other company has gone.

Mike Lovell, former chancellor of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and now president of Marquette University, is known for hiring outstanding talent. He says:

“Our best candidates and most frequent hires are those who go beyond having great ideas; they also talk passionately about how they’ve made their ideas happen elsewhere.”

The law firm Husch Blackwell has 1,500 employees (partners and staff) located in 19 cities around the country. Paul Eberle, a successful entrepreneur in his early career, is now a deputy CEO for the firm, which acquired Milwaukee-based Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek last year. Eberle says he looks for “a number of qualities that are expected in everyone we hire: creativity, intelligence, drive and passion, to name a few. The real challenge is to find leaders, problem-solvers, people who own the issue and can take any challenge to a successful resolution – while making everyone on the team better along the way.”

Paul Jones has been a successful entrepreneur in his own right leading innovative companies and now is a coach to startups and runs a very successful angel network to finance startups. He has a very interesting take: “For founders – the folks with the big, outside-the-envelope vision – you look for fire in the belly coupled with an ability to explain their vision in a way that not only challenges, but respects the less visionary folks they need to inspire (think investors, employees, customers).”

In Jones’ experience “arrogant know-it-alls don’t get very far unless they have done it before. For the push-the-envelope innovators…you look for fire in the belly, again, but this time in the context of just knowing they can find and use the available tools to accomplish the vision.”

In Texas, they would say avoid hiring those individuals who are: “All hat and no cattle.” Avoid slick talkers. Look for prior results.

Clearly, there’s no simple one-size-fits-all formula.

My suggestion is that you deliberately build in questions that challenge the candidate to describe and document their previous creative and innovative accomplishments in both their business and personal lives.

-Dan Steininger is the president of Biz Starts and of Steininger & Associates LLC, which helps companies drive new revenues through innovation. He can be reached at Dan@BizStarts.com.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

Dan Steininger is the president and founder of BizStarts. He is also the president of Steininger & Associates. The firm focuses on teaching the tools of innovation to drive growth for companies in all sectors of the economy. Steininger is a former president and CEO of Catholic Financial Life and a graduate of Marquette University and Boston University's School of Law.

No posts to display