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Are You Hiring for Cultural Fit or Cultural Contribution

Posted by Cristina Filippo on 02/04/2016

As many of you know, we have been anticipating the release of Adam Grant’s new book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Change the World”. He is currently on a book tour and I was happy to “ninja” my way to getting tickets to hear him speak at the NeueHouse in Los Angeles last night. Adam tends to turn many foundational leadership ideas “on their head” and does the same in his new book about moving from being creative to championing ideas and bringing them to reality. We are going to highlight just one idea from an excerpt of a recent interview with the Washington Post. Hope this gives you some food for thought about ensuring creativity exists within your culture!

Question: In the book there is a discussion about the pitfalls that organizations are prone to when they have strong cultures, especially since many leaders think a strong corporate culture is essential. What are the downsides?

Answer: “There are upsides and downsides to building a strong corporate culture. They're great for attracting uniquely motivated and talented people, and making it a place where they feel like they belong. But especially as organizations grow, strong cultures tend to predict more stagnation, more inertia, and more difficulty with innovation and change. That's because when you look for a strong culture, you're trying to bring in people who share something in common. So that means they tend to approach problems in similar ways. They come from experiences that are probably pretty similar to each other, and that crowds out diversity of thought.”

“This is so clear in hiring. The studies that Jim Barron led of Silicon Valley firms that hired on cultural fit -- as opposed to skills or potential -- showed that they were more likely to survive, and more likely to get to IPO. But after that point, they saw much lower growth rates. When you hire on cultural fit, you tend to hire a bunch of people who think, talk, look and act just like you do.”

“I love the idea of hiring on "cultural contribution". Instead of bringing in people who fit the culture, let’s bring in people who enrich the culture. Let's figure out what's missing in the culture and hire based on that. That goes way beyond selection. We need to reward and promote people who think differently from the majority, and it's sometimes really hard to do that in a strong culture.”

We all know how important having a great organizational culture is! I love the thought that you need to continue to be aware of diversity within that culture to ensure that it does not become stagnant. It may be more prudent to make sure a candidate is aligned around values and then look at what that candidate could contribute to your culture.

We continue to bring you thought leaders that align with our leadership philosophy and feel could be of some value to you in your leadership journey. Let us know what your current challenges are and we will try to address those in an upcoming blog!


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