Expert's Opinion

Culture Fosters Innovation

By Kate Benson, Martens & Heads | June 10, 2012

Kate Benson explains why money can't always buy it.

Innovation is the name of the game in many industries, certainly in all of those that we recruit for.Innovation fosters new products, new categories and new consumerism – which leads to what we are all in business for: to make money.After all, this is America – we are a capitalistic society.I believe that some of the most innovative endeavors come not only from those million-dollar ideas (or million-dollar investments), but from people.

I recently read an article on habits by Janet Rae-Dupree, and one line in particular struck me: “You cannot have innovation unless you are willing and able to move through the unknown and go from curiosity to wonder.”It made me think about people and how often opportunities to grow as individuals, are missed because of the fear of the unknown.

As an executive recruiter we “helicopter” people into new environments all the time.It’s an incredibly stressful situation for all involved.When it’s successful, it’s amazing – but so often, times of great opportunities are missed because of a person’s inability to be open-minded when it comes to forming new relationships, and in turn, forming new corporate cultures.

When you are starting a new job it’s so much simpler to rely on what you already know. It’s easier to surround yourself with people you have had success working with in the past, rather than entering into a situation where you’ll have a new team. However, in order to foster innovation, it’s necessary that you’re open to new people – as they’ll bring innovative ideas, challenge preconceived assumptions and offer a fresh perspective to a situation.

Exectuives Must Fill in the Blanks

In terms of executive’s personalities, it’s important to understand what your company has in excess as well as what they are lacking. Not every worker will be equally analytical, creative, procedural or rational. It’s important to understand what a person’s strengths are, as well as their weaknesses. What’s more, it’s necessary to keep this in mind when hiring more staff, as it’s beneficial to make sure that one person can make up for what another may lack.

A great leader must create a roadmap that identifies where their organization currently stands, where they want it to go in the future and how they will possibly get there. There should be an assessment of what skills their company as a whole possess, along with what is missing.Sometimes it’s difficult for people to admit what they’re lacking. However, a great leader will understand that where there are blanks, come opportunity.

It’s important that when your company comes to a fork in the road, not necessarily to choose the easier path, but more so to understand where both roads may lead. Are you going to choose the route that makes you more comfortable?Or will you take the road that has bumps and challenges along the way, but may ultimately foster a culture that will prove beneficial in the long run. The choice is yours – it always has been.

About the Author

A founding member of Martens & Heads!, Katehas 15+ years of executive search expertise in retail, fashion and luxury for global iconic brands like LVMH and Prada, to start-ups. Her experience within brands and in executive search gives her a keen understanding of client needs and unsurpassed access to industry talent.She is active in industry associations including: the Fashion Group International, Cosmetic Executive Women, and the Society for Human Resource Management.