Member Pat Lashinsky Speaks: Hire Fresh Talent from Outside Your Industry to Drive Innovation

The Challenge:

The case at hand was brought by a CEO that was looking for ways to innovate in a commoditized market. He felt discouraged by the consumer perception that their industry’s products are “all the same” and wondered how he could find the right people to innovate his product portfolio.

If you were in this situation, what would you do?

If I were you, I’d hire fresh faces with no direct experience in your industry. While it may take more time to get them up to speed, the infusion of new perspectives will foster valuable innovation.

I’m a new member of this group, so I don’t know you as well as the other members. But, my newness may bring you fresh perspectives. If I were in your shoes, I would suspend the belief that your market is commoditized, and hire fresh talent from outside your industry to drive innovation. Think about Uber: they unlocked billions of dollars of value in a market that many considered commoditized precisely because they weren’t taxi people. Instead, they approached the market from a consumer perspectives and said, “Wouldn’t it be a lot better if…”

You may worry that it will take too much time to get industry outsiders up to speed. Yet, it is exactly this process of getting outsiders to consider new problems that generates the disruptive innovation your company needs. For example, I was once transferred into the yogurt division of a large food company specifically because I had no experience in the market – and no preconceived notions of what yogurt should be. Despite the perception that yogurt was a commoditized market, I led my team to create novel packaging that made yogurt exceedingly easy to eat on the go. It immediately set us apart from the competition.