Is Packing Your Company with "Experience" Too Much to Bear?




Over the years I've been very fortunate to be involved with innovative people who create companies from just ideas to market leadership. I've also seen missteps, misconceptions and more from companies and their competition regarding how they are "supposed" to behave once funding, talent and advisers come into the mix.

At the early stages, ideas flow freely and execution is much quicker and more efficient for no other reason but survivability. However, as their efforts are recognized by revenue streams and/or the investor community, the stuff that made them great starts to get replaced by the stuff that plagues legacy organizations they were invented to disrupt in the first place.

There's a guy who now documents the most insignificant of requirements. There's another person who takes copious notes at every meeting. There's more people who spend hours debating the effectiveness of blue vs. green while being completely removed from the strategic objectives relevant to the marketplace. Why?

The reason is as simple as the cheesy plot lines of predictable Hollywood blockbusters. There's money and reputations at stake now and most of the energy is spent managing that over the "survivability" instinct that propelled them to this point.

The new hires come from big companies with impressive track records only to repeat their legacy which was often born out of a different set of circumstances than their current situation. The advisory board is formed less for real advice, and more to "attach" themselves to a potential notch on their portfolio belt. Management egos move from humility (which made them wise earlier) to hubris (which makes them believe they're right regardless of the market reality).

Sound familiar?

It's easy enough to point to the ideal M.O. from Dee Hock which I've written and spoken about before, but that idealism doesn't get you the dollars the way the game is currently played. Of course, money is never the motivation for people wanting to create positive change through innovation, but money, amongst other things are the sad reality.

Instead of frustration, maybe the thing to look at who you invite to the party organizationally, and how do you enforce the criteria. The details are beyond the scope of a blog post, but maybe the simplest way to see this is by asking these three questions:

1. What's this person's real talent (over what their credentials say)?
2. What is their typical response to challenges (motivation and character)?
3. Is the answer to Q1 complimentary, and is the answer to Q2 a cultural fit?

Experience can be valuable, but the real question is: Experienced at WHAT exactly?

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