Hiring for Diversity, #2: Personality and Experience Diversity

I recently led a workshop on Hiring for an Agile Team.  We discussed diversity and I explained my position: the more complex the problem, the more personality and experience diversity you want on your team. That’s because different approaches to solving problems and backgrounds help the team see what their options are.

I once worked with a team who were all introverted, quick to come to decisions, and all had the same kind of product experience. When it came time to develop a brand new product, they had trouble. They had no one who came up with wacko ideas on the spur of the moment, and no one who could keep options open for a while. They hired someone who liked to wait longer to come to decisions. That person also connected problems and solutions differently than the original team members did, so he was a very helpful addition to the team.

When I worked for my first machine vision company, I had no idea how machine vision inspection worked. But I had a product to deliver, so I experimented with different algorithms, different lighting, and different placement of the piece to be inspected under the camera. I didn’t know much about machine vision, but I knew about problem solving. One of the more experienced engineers told me that the color of the light would not make any difference. Except, that was the variable that made all the difference in solving the problem.

I wish I could claim brilliance, but I can’t. I can claim that previous experience of varying parameters in experiments and keeping a notebook of the potential solutions and how they worked was helpful. That, I’d learned in an instrumentation company.

Remember that personality and experience diversity is a piece of diversity when hiring. Do you need people who think differently? How about people with different kinds of product experience than you have? You might be pleasantly surprised. Problem solving skills transcend product experience.

4 Replies to “Hiring for Diversity, #2: Personality and Experience Diversity”

  1. I find that very interesting. I work for a consultancy, and clients put more and more emphasis in hiring people with good domain knowledge, with long experience in the business they currently have. This makes very hard to get people with other backgrounds into a team. I’m not denying the value of domain knowledge, but I don’t think it’s good to exclusively hire people with experience in that field, as the potential for new and different ideas is much lower. I wonder if there is any way to take advantage of that when talking to clients!

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