backwards innovation

How to crush innovation in reverse.

Often, the path towards innovation looks like this; a novel idea is conceived or embraced. The processes within organizations are adapted to facilitate this novel idea, and finally, the novel idea gets executed.

Sometimes, oddly, it’s the other way around. Sometimes, a particular way of working shifts automatically due to market demand. The procedures are adopted upon realizing that the current processes in place don’t foster the new way of working. Until finally, the novel idea manifests itself in a crystal clear manner.

For example, the way we used to hire people largely depended on a job description. Many companies hiring people for themselves — or intermediaries such as recruiting agencies hiring people for other companies — are now somewhat forced to move away from the classic job description. Why? The chances you’ll find other purple squirrels (white ravens) in times of labor market scarcity — let alone keep them — are zero to none. Especially starting from the job description that the purple squirrel is currently fulfilling. As it turns out, they often combine multiple jobs. Should we then create a new job description that combines multiple jobs?

Looking at required skills (both hard skills and soft skills) instead of sticking to relatively static job descriptions might prove to be a solution. The downside, though, is that if the purple squirrel were to be replaced, or the capacity should be increased, one purple squirrel might add up to two or more purple squirrels.

Due to labor market scarcity, the skills-based approach is currently being embraced, albeit ad hoc. Now it’s time for companies to adopt the processes that should go along with skills-based hiring so that the ideology can ultimately thrive.

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