They say talent is the most important asset of any company. As business success is determined by the sum of all its parts, those parts are essentially the brilliant minds that fuels every output – creative, commercial and beyond.
But what is the definition of talent and how do we define brilliant, or inherent brightness? Sometimes the most exciting and intriguing minds are those that have strayed from the path and continue to do so. Whether it’s the chef that became a strategic director, or the amateur F1 driver that is now leading a global creative business. As the next generation grows up in a multidisciplinary and multicultural world we need to rethink the credentials we’re looking for. Never before has the ‘school of life’ been more important.
Great business leaders or creative minds are not always those who follow a straightforward path. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos started out doing computer science on Wall Street, Jonah Peretti started off as a school teacher before he founded BuzzFeed and Huffington Post. Vera Wang used to be an ice skater before she became a fashion designer and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson played football before ditching sports for a lucrative entertainment career and recently even started his own advertising agency. Hiring for diversity is a common thread that rightly focuses on diversity of race, gender and culture. Diversity in experience, often not considered, should also be part of the equation.
So, why is it so difficult for people to look beyond the traditional qualifications? I believe this comes from the fear of straying from convention. Most people in hiring roles have grown up in an environment where professional qualifications were the expectation. Standard ways of doing things give us a certain sense of reassurance in the hiring process. If a candidate looks good on paper, who am I to blame if things don’t work out? Having that Harvard degree with straight A’s should reassure us that we made the right decision. But it also means that we are hiring people with similar backgrounds, with like-minded views on the world and most likely, with the same answers or solutions. Breaking this barrier is about having the confidence and bravery of trying something different and being prepared to fail. If you are a business leader you need to break the norm and allow others to do the same. By surrounding yourself with different ways of thinking, different backgrounds and philosophies on life, alternative options and thinking will present itself.
As the next generation is growing up with a more global perspective on life, diversity will be a different concept to them, less forced and more natural. Millennials and generation Z are being exposed to different social changes and professional hurdles which means that, increasingly, there will be more people with a different outlook and less people following the same straight and narrow paths of life. With universities raising their fees and education becoming a luxury good, more people will be missing out on that formal path and having to embark on life in a new way. Where CVs with multiple jobs in different industries were historically a bad thing to prospective employers, maybe we need to look beyond the job titles and see the benefits. At JKR we believe in the power of the collective more than individual strengths. Diverse influences will bring more intriguing skills and having outside perspectives will shine a new light.
I believe that nothing will fundamentally change and shift until the first traditional business skips a generation or two and makes the global CMO a millennial. If we actually made that 31-year-old Korean artist turned marketing lead the CMO of one of the world’s most iconic and traditional businesses in trouble – that would make a difference. And how big of a risk would that actually be in reality?