How many times have you heard or read that you need people skills today to get a job? I am not so convinced this is true for many companies today since more and more companies today want your ability to manage ideas better than your ability to manage people. There are so many people, especially older workers looking for a job, who have excellent people skills but are having so much difficulty in finding a job. You don’t read much about this in the newspapers or on news, but instead you see the the blame levied against the unemployed for lacking hard skills. I believe what they may be lacking is ideas skills that you need with the changing economic climate.
Don’t get me wrong, people skills are still important for companies that have a vertical management style who depend on performance of their employees at every level within the hierarchy, but not that important for companies that have horizontal management style that depend on ideas at all levels. (This is often referred to as innovation but I will refrain from using it since it has become so overused such that it has lost its meaning.)
Companies that depend on ideas can only compete based on how effective they are with their end-to-end idea lifecycle management (IIM). This means employees they are likely to hire have to be adept at coming up with ideas, formulating them, getting them adopted, rejecting or pivoting on them (if necessary), executing them and educating others and then start all over again. IIM is no longer a nicety for many companies, but a necessity.
Companies whose success depends on ideas are hiring CEOs who are more skilled with working with ideas than people. Take Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, for example. She was hired from Google to be the CEO of Yahoo mainly because the board of Yahoo determined that its success depends on its ability to quickly create new products (based on ideas) rather than sustaining existing products. Mayer had zero experience being a C-level executive, yet she got the job.
In the Slate magazine, David Auerbach makes a good insight in his article titled, “The Age of the Product Manager,” that Marissa Mayer, like Steve Jobs, got her ideas cred from “working in the trenches, not in boardrooms." Mayer would not be a logical choice for a company with a traditional vertical management style, but was absolutely the right choice for a company who had to move towards an aggressive horizontal management style, like Yahoo, to foster growth. Experience of managing people is not that important as it once was. (We will see who Microsoft hires to replace Steve Balmer, but I would not be surprised that it will be someone like Mayer who is good with idea management in generating new products quickly.)
Marissa Mayer's management style is different than what you would find in a CEO of a traditional company. She has adopted a style of being a product manager where she “does not take credit for the deep skills of the people with whom she works. Instead, she works as a peer to draw the necessary connections between them and keep them in sync. She pays attention to the existing self-organization of small groups of smart people and sympathetically exerts soft power to try to leverage their skills on a larger scale, without wrecking what they already do well. She does not build from the ground up, but helps fit pieces together—horizontally.”
It is so important for the CEO to be close to the ideas people since losing one key idea person can be as destructive to a horizontal styled management company as losing a half a dozen managers in a vertical styled management company. Companies today value ideas people and if you want to work for these type of companies that thrive on ideas, you must learn to be an effective idea person.
James Altucher, in his best selling book, "Choose Yourself," writes that today we have entered a new phase in history "where art, science, business, and spirit will join together, both externally and internally, in the pursuit of true wealth. It’s a phase where ideas are more important than people and everyone will have to choose themselves for happiness."
Startups Are No Different
This is one of the reason why the turnover at startups is high as 25% according to the article in WSJ titled, "Startups Are Quick To Fire." Startups are hungry for products. It is a very simple rule: no good products, no business. This is the lesson they get from Eric Reis' with Lean Startup approach that "urges new companies to stay unsentimentally focused on moving ahead, repeatedly releasing improved products and eliminating anything that doesn't serve customers." In contrast, in the same article it mentions that the job losses in established companies is approximately 6.6%. So as you can see from the findings in this article startups and technolgy companies grow their business on idea mangement and traditional companies sustain their existing business on people management.
You have to lead with ideas. Being good with people is certainly a plus but is not likely to make you stand out. You have to focus on these six key attributes of ideas:
What ideas have you come up with?
How do you come up with ideas?
What environment helps generate new ideas?
Companies want to know these type of questions since they want to make sure that you are going to be in an environment that is conducive to coming up with new ideas and socialize them with others.
Once you come up with ideas how do you go about explaining them to others? Do you have a methodology to express these ideas to others such as using social media such as Facebook, blogs, podcasts, vlogs, Google+ Hangout, etc. Do you take feedback from others and refine your ideas? How will you know that you are ready to get widely adopted within the company? Have you thought about turning an idea into a potential business opportunity?
Creating and formulating ideas are fine but if they are not widely adopted, then they are not going to go anywhere. How do you go about doing this? What kind of persuasion skills do you have for adoption? What kind of tools would you use? Can you teach others of what your ideas are all about? Do you have confidence in your ideas? Can you withstand the scrutiny of others about your ideas? Are you afraid to fail? Mostly, can you ready to duke it out with others in getting your ideas adopted?
Most ideas will not stand the scrutiny once it is thoroughly analyzed. When do you know when to pivot or stop? How do you take rejection? At what point will you concede that it is time to pivot or reject your ideas? Do you have the temperament to take critical feedback well and start all over? Do you give up quickly?
Until ideas bet accepted by customers, it is still an idea and not an innovation. How would you turn an idea into innovation? Have you given much thought to how to turn an idea into an innovation? Are you familiar with the end-to-end process from taking it from an idea to innovation? Can you work with others during this entire process?
It is very important to document the entire process so others can learn from your your experience. Do you like to teach others and mentor others who are new at it?
Ideas are the lifeblood for growth oriented companies in order for them to compete; therefore, to get a job, you have to think, talk and act like an entrepreneur who are self starters who have the ability to take an idea from conception to implementation. This is a skill you not only need if you are starting your own company, but also need if you are looking for a job. Companies need all their employees to have an entrepreneurial mindset to succeed. You have to become an ideas person to get and keep a high paying job today.
What do you think? Agree or Disagree?
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