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Live from FEI 2014: Scott Millward on Fostering Effective Talent Solutions

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Author's Intro: In a talk that was rich with examples and anecdotes, Dr. Scott Millward brought tale after tale about how companies can strategically bring in the talent. Rather than pass along the anecdotes, I want to pass along several fantastic insights from Dr. Millward's talk.

Mark Fields once cited Peter Drucker as saying "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." True though this may be, Dr. Millward upended this thinking with a simple twist: "...But your talent can change what's on the menu!" In this is a reminder that strategy is also what determines the requisite talent, and vice versa.

What is more important to your company? Process (how things get done) or outcome (outcome focus)? Short-term or long-term? Strong or weak?
Effectively, these three questions correspond (respectively) to culture (process vs. outcome focus), strategy (short- vs. long-term), and structure (strong or weak), which in turn raises the question of whether one should mold strategy to fit culture, or vice versa.[1] As Millward concludes, "Craft talent strategies that are incremental and fit with the culture."

Conflict is thinking
This is a very important strategy when it comes both to innovation and to hiring. While there is a strong inclination to "hire like me," the reality is that diversity of thought allows people to view ideas from multiple angles. When everyone is agreeing, there is nothing new in the room, and consequently no foundation for innovating.

Good talent is made better by good talent
Getting good talent in the door can be tricky[2], but the most important part of the hiring strategy is to take a long-term approach to hiring and continually building the trove of talent that the company has. As Millward pointed out, "A short-term, outcome focus creates a talent dilemma...You're looking for lighting in a bottle every time."[3]

There is far too much short-term thinking in business today, what with investors looking to make a quick buck, hiring managers expecting ready-made candidates, and innovation portfolios with a six-month scope. Yet, in the back of everyone's mind is the knowledge that, even at the speed of business, investing, hiring, and innovating are necessarily long-term endeavors. It is a far-reaching view that will enable companies to have the right people on board to invent the future.

Orin's Asides
1) It depends, says organizational design professor Lex Donaldson, who has been quick to point out the interlocking relationships between structure, strategy, and personnel in his many writings on contingency theory.
2) My thoughts on how to bring in the talent here.
3) This goes hand-in-hand with unicorn hunting.

Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

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