Diverse Teams + Desire To Disrupt Status Quo = Breakthrough Ideas

Earlier today I sat in on a webcast that Joi Ito from MIT Media Lab hosted with David and Tom Kelley from IDEO where they discussed how to foster a culture of innovation and maximize the creative potential of said innovative organization. Then this evening I attended an intimate discussion hosted by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce at WeWork between Kevin Winston of Digital LA and Eric Garland of Live Nation Labs. I’ve excerpted some of both discussions below, but more interestingly I’d like to analyze some commonalities. The brothers Kelley came at the discussion from an agency, teaching, and author/public speaker background while Eric had an entrepreneur turned corporate research & development background, but both ended up hitting on some similar topics. Namely: hiring the best people, fostering their communication, and then getting the hell out of the way.

A common thread has emerged lately in articles I’ve read, videos I’ve watched, and events I’ve attended where managers response to the general question of “what was most important to your success?” is almost always along the lines of “I had a great team”. Clearly some people long for a shortcut to success, but the common answer tends to be “hire great people”, “set your team up for success”, “rinse & repeat”. So then how do you go about hiring great people and setting them up for success? The Kelley brothers seemed to say that having a diverse background was valuable for their team members (I seem to recall one of the brothers noting an opera singer on staff) and that diverse employee base allowed for a wide-ranging set of experiences from which to draw upon during creative sessions. That approach may work well for an agency in that they often work on varying projects and clients and need to have a different approach on a regular basis. However, I wonder how that applies to someone like an entrepreneur or someone  locked into a specific marketplace (e.g., Eric Garland’s focus on the music industry and advancing Live Nation’s business via his Labs team).  Can those teams afford the luxury of a diverse employee base or must they stick to the “engineers and designers with pre-existing experience in the music industry” bit that seems to permeate job postings? The answer, in reality, seems to be against a diverse employee base (see Live Nation Labs job postings for an answer to that). But this is a small sample size, so if you’re aware of teams who hire specifically for diverse candidates I’d love to hear about them to compare their success and failures against organizations who hire for job-specific talents with marketplace experience. My second question of “how to set up your team for success” was hit on by Eric during his discussion; he seemed to say that allowing the team to work when, where and on what they wanted while keeping them physically and mentally separated from upper management was a key to success. Any additional thoughts you have on this topic would be warmly welcomed in the comments section below; let’s chat!