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.: