The people principle.

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There are two types of companies in the world today:

The first kind recruits people based on their ability to match the requirements of a specific position. (i.e. the right degree, the right range of experience, the right list of specific skills like... the ability to work with Powerpoint and Excel.) Each job is a box, and the perfect candidate fits comfortably in that box. When an employee leaves the company, another is hired, and the box gets filled. Posititions take precedence over people.

And there's nothing wrong with that... as long as your company isn't looking to grow... or evolve.

The second kind of company, however, focuses on people rather than job descriptions. This company tends to recruit people for their skills and talents rather than because they fit a specific bulletpoint job profile. These are the companies that hire innovators, problem-solvers, offbeat talent, and folks with unusual backgrounds. Sure, they hire to fill positions too, but they value talent, new ideas and momentum more than they do the simple ability to perform basic business functions.

Yes, some companies operate in a safe "maintenance" mode (sub 6% annual growth and "don't rock the boat" attitude), while others look to break new ground, redefine their industries, and become market leaders.

The difference between the two can usually be seen in the way that new hires are screened and recruited... and later mentored.

It's the age old battle of "asses in seats" vs. "what will make our company better?"

Seth Godin, commenting on the possibility that Microsoft may end up buying Yahoo gives us this little bit of timely gold on the subject:

The real point, I think, is people.

The best things to ever come out of Yahoo, as far as I'm concerned, have been the work of individuals. Not of some hyperbolic purple and yellow machine, but from people, strong-willed individuals willing to buck the bureaucracy. And all the worst stuff the company has done has come out of committees. (...)

What we haven't figured out how to predict yet is which people will perform breakthroughs, which people are the ones that will change everything. What we do know for sure is that some organizations are more hospitable to that sort of behavior than others. Microsoft has gotten good at developing pockets of this sort of innovation. The challenge of an acquisition is going to be: Can the combined company make it a lot more likely that mavericks actually bring great stuff to market?
Well... actually, you can identify the innovators pretty early on - before they ever earn their first paycecks. (In many cases, even as early as elementary school.) It's just that very few companies in the west (if any) are using the right tools to do so... or are even thinking along those lines.

It is definitely true that some companies do make an effort to attract and hold on to these types of individuals, and these are the companies you hear about every day: Yahoo. Google. Microsoft. Apple. GE. IDEO. Frog. Pixar. Starbucks.

People can make or break companies.

People make the difference between relevance and obsolescence.

People foster innovation, or kill it dead.

People are your ticket to growth and success.

Recruit wisely, and do whatever is in your power to keep great employees happy, engaged and excited to be part of your company's journey.

Have a great weekend, everyone. ;)

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