More so than ever before, we see business models becoming more fluid, having to change to keep up with the dynamics of their market environment. Even large, traditional organisations are looking at structures such as Spotify’s tribe model or Haier’s autonomous business units to allow their employees to organically form new teams around emerging customer needs.

This organisational responsiveness is a powerful tool for keeping at the cutting edge of product/service innovation, but it requires an adaptive workforce.

Having multidisciplinary/cross-functional teams is a good step in this direction, but to maximise adaptability, companies should be striving to hire and develop a workforce of quick learning, multidisciplinary individuals, able to take on hybrid roles. Hybrid roles are becoming a more important aspect of the modern workforce. When individuals have a unique combination of skills and knowledge they are able to play a pivotal role in the innovation process. For example, consider the potential for automation in legal sector enabled by the combination of legal knowledge with AI skills.

One method for building a workforce of multidisciplinary individuals is to incorporate first principles thinking into the hiring and promotion processes. First principles thinking is a concept from Aristotelian philosophy in which problems are broken down to their most basic elements, stripping back all of the ‘known’ assumptions that might otherwise restrict how we consider a problem. Applying this to the hiring process and to identifying high potential candidates for promotion has been popularised in the last 5 years by Elon Musk. It allows his companies to prioritise the skills associated with good learners when they make new hires. As a consequence, as his businesses SpaceX, Paypal and Tesla grew, they still managed to maintain a high level of curiosity, resilience and willingness to think outside the box normally associated with a start-up environment.

These links dive deeper into hybrid roles, first-principles thinking and how hiring and promotion can prioritise the skills needed for an adaptive, curious organisation.: