Are Innovative Thinkers Being Weeded Out by the Culture-Fit Trend?

| By Editorial Staff

careers-ss-141085759Of all the buzzwords flittering around in the business world these days (authority, transparency, hot desking), is it possible that the most toxic of them all is the word culture?

Everywhere you turn, brands big and small talk about culture. Adobe has a site dedicated to their culture – Adobe Life, where the software company delivers an inside look at everyday life at Adobe.

Buffer, the social media software company, has built an entire following on the concept, and dedicates a part of their blog to their company culture.

On the surface, culture seems like a good thing. In fact, a 2012 study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute determined that a strong culture of innovation was a significant factor in the success of Silicon Valley’s most widely known companies.

When you hear things like that, it’s safe to assume that if you want to attract and nurture innovators, your company needs to create – and live by – a vibrant and well-defined culture.

But it’s that very culture that might be scaring away top talent or preventing them from reaching their full potential.

Innovation demands disruption and outside thinkers

Part of the reason why companies create workplace cultures is to attract the type of talent that they believe will fit in seamlessly with their existing workforce. A well-defined culture – that is heavily promoted during the hiring process – typically helps reduce the chances of a company hiring a “bad fit.”

But conflict, confrontation, and outsider thinking are what fuel innovation. Think of it, what would have been made of Apple if Steve Jobs didn’t demand to ruffle some feathers and, well, think different?

To be fair, company culture has its place. As a business starts to grow, implementing certain processes helps employees and employers weather the growing pains. Once you find something that “works,” it’s not a bad idea to pursue that idea for a while to nurture growth.

But there comes a time when these processes turn into routines. And routines breed comfort, the ultimate innovation killer. The moment we all get comfortable in the workplace, we shy away from new perspectives and shun anyone who tries to stir the pot.

The thought is: We have something good going on here. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

But if your workplace culture nurtures an environment of comfort, then you can be certain that the most innovative minds out there won’t be compelled to become a part of your team.

That’s because, by their very nature, innovators are misfits. They’re rebels. They don’t approach projects with a “let’s go with what works” mindset. They’re rarely satisfied with status quo.

These are the types of thinkers you need on your workforce if you want to continue to disrupt the marketplace.

Diversity of thought is likely what brought you success in the past. It makes no sense, then, to suddenly shift gears and turn away from it, just because you’ve experienced some success.

But that’s actually what happens when a company hires new talent based on whether these prospects “fit” into some existing workplace culture.

Rather than going with what works now, you should look to choose candidates whom you feel could make a positive contribution to the future of your culture.

By planning for the future, you not only avoid the stagnation suffered by so many businesses as they grow, but you also stand a better chance of attracting innovators who are looking to join forces with teams that embrace disruption, change, and fresh perspectives.