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Marita says: Fitting in prevents from disruptive innovation.

November 19, 2019

When hiring new talents, most managers invest in “getting the right people with the right mindset”. The question whether a candidate fits to the organizational culture seems crucial for jointly following an organization’s goal. Job interviews have recently been designed around the question whether a candidate shares the same values as the company. More precisely, leaders want to know if their future employees share the same mindset and if they are prepared to give the same amount of commitment and time for company’s issues.


What is the organizational risk when selecting those who “fit in perfectly”?


In current management philosophy, we consider organizations as learning entities, as constructions that are constantly interacting and re-forming, adapting to markets’ and societies’ needs. In order to meet these needs, diverse working styles are required. Diversity does not only include the classic six dimensions age, gender, ability, cultural background, religion and sexuality (European Commission 2012), but also considers different working and communication styles, as well as different biographical backgrounds.


The idea behind the “perfect match” between candidate and company, however, is quite narrow: Organizations in this view more resemble static buildings, where every brick has to “fit in” in order not to let it tremble.


Besides, people tend to select people who resemble one another! The social phenomenon of selecting „mini-mes“ describes a recruiting bias that triggers our selection towards people who we think act and feel like ourselves. Leaders therefore “instinctively” (in Austria often referred to as the “Bauchgefühl”) chose a younger version of themselves. This phenomenon is not only connected to demographic criteria like coming from the same region or having the same gender, but also include a similar communication style, similar hobbies, or common experiences that make a decision maker and a candidate connect more quickly. (This, by the way, is one of the main structural barriers for women in male-dominated fields).


How to prevent from the fitting-in pitfall? On a first sight, behavioral interview questions might seem an option. At a second glance, for example the request to “describe the work environment in which you are most productive and happy”, still aims to find out whether a candidate fits to the organization instead of providing a new employee with everything he*she needs to perform.


The internet is full of “asking the right questions” but also of “answering the questions right”. So in order to really find out about your candidates, you need to change the way you are hiring them. If you don’t have the expertise, work with search and selection partners that offer a pool of diverse candidates. Build awareness among leaders about how “matching” is dominated by stereotypes and by old ideas of working together in a smooth way.


Reinvent your talks with candidates – instead of interviewing them, ask them to participate in a meeting as a full member of the team. Share the questions you need to resolve in the near future and give the opportunity for creating an out-of-the-box view. Encourage them to question everything they hear and see. Only skilled and forward-thinking minds will advance the company and lead to genuine innovation as disruptive innovation is mostly produced by by people who dare to challenge a whole market or system.


What is your opinion on that? Marita would be happy to connect: consulting@maritahaas.at