I was working with a client recently, and one of the managers declared, “What we really need are a bunch of innovators. All of our open reqs–let's hire some innovators.”
Well, there's a little bit about creating an environment in which innovation can flourish (e.g. ending the multitasking, giving people a little slack time, building trust among the technical staff and between the technical staff and the manager), but there are ways to look for people who are innovators.
When I look for innovators, I look for people who see problems and solve them. I don't specifically look for geniuses who think big thoughts and create big breakthroughs. I'm from the innovate-a-bit-at-a-time school, and after you do enough of those, the big idea occurs to at least one person in the organization. I look for people who see broken things and fix them, as well as general problem-solving skills, and what they do when they are stumped–can they work across the organization to get things done?
So, here are some questions to assess problem-solving and innovation ability:
- “Give me a recent example of a time you saw something that bugged you.” …(wait for the answer) “What was it?” … “What did you do about it?”
- “Have you ever noticed something wrong in a system or product you had some responsibility for?”…” What was it?”…” What did you do about it?”
- “Give me an example of a time you had a great idea that required other people to implement or clear an obstacle to your solution.” … “What did you do?”
Those are just three jumping-off questions. You'll start a conversation with these questions and keep going. If you have other questions you like, please comment.
Hiring for innovation doesn't have to be the big-bang theory of “We'll get great people and innovate!” As long as you look for people who are great problem solvers, you'll be ok. Let me know what you do.