Recruitment for knowledge safaris

If people form the DNA of every organisation. So why are we designing organisations around its desired output rather than the people around the organisation evolves?

A typical recruitment process starts with a ‘JD’, a job profile. The required skills, education, hands-on experience or even an associated brand from which the candidate is lured in, hoping the brand’s unique ‘shine’ will rub off on our own organisations. The candidate’s personal characteristics are stapelled on, at best, to meet a presumed cultural fit. It is this cultural and personal fit that might prove a better predictor for success than the polished CVs and 30-minute interviews.

In the domain of digital marketing experience has a limited use-by-date, let alone a university degree achieved with honour as far back as in 2003. After all, the world has moved on since 2003 and the candidate’s attitude to learn, adapt-to-become-adept and an action-driven attitude is far more important in today’s professional world. Hardcore skills are outdated the moment they are mastered. It is the set of soft skills, and the way they complement an existing team, that fuel a successful career.

It is not this easy though. We should not underestimate the self-fulfilling prophecy that our organisations perpetuate today. Our org charts are still built with ‘rank’ in mind. Ranks that are legitimised on CVs and Ivy league certificates rather than tangible (or potential) achievement. Most big corporates suffer from a risk averse culture that favours hardcore skills from 20003 instead of flexibility of mind that is favoured by a truly learning organisation.
As a result those who have potential to succeed in today’s enterprise are inclined to leave the big corporate who seem to be denying their need for these agile anticipators.

There is a fine balance between corporate robustness and a flexible, agility workforce. Namely the established disciplines with their feet spread between the traditional domains of finance and HRM feel the grunt of this change. They need to marry an established domain with new disruptive trends. Finance to cater for new business models (appreciating a non-paying ‘active user’) and HR to attract and coach a nimble workforce of generations Y and Z who are endowed with this celebrated feat of ‘anticipating’, but require a constant stream impulses to keep them engaged.
Fact is that no domain is immune to the need of new skills, but in a digital business transformation this becomes particularly poignant. A transformation needs the organisation to build a momentum of change. Attracting change agents, but failing to keep them engaged is detrimental for the transformation itself.

Transformation is fuelled by a number of critical factors:

  • a shared vision and acknowledged mission
  • a sense of urgency
  • a change strategy with tangible milestones of change in the right direction

There might not be a concrete and factual description of the ‘end game’ to which the transformation should lead. But with a strategy that allows for an organisation to learn and evolve, the direction becomes more important than the end game. Leadership that allows for uncertainty and experimentation is key. Knowledge is a living thing. It surely is a starting point rooted in a solid experience, but should quickly allow to engage with an ever changing context to find its way to what is most adept to succeed.
With today’s pace of (disruptive) innovation a business goal needs to follow its context in market and technological advancement. It is much more about navigating a jungle than it is about cultivating a field or build a factory.

From product factories to knowledge safaris where diversity and intrinsic motivation are key.

  • Recruitment of knowledge workers to staff teams geared to diversity to avoid group think and continuously challenge the status quo.
  • Knowledge workers who do not contain but publish information for verification and ultimately falsification, creating knowledge and best practice.
  • Transparency of information and cross-pollination of knowledge enables innovation, geared to prototyping and iterative development.
  • Agile and short cycled development enable an adaptive organisation responsive to people’s needs and market circumstances.
  • Stakeholder management secures the interest of employees, shareholders and the supporting habitat in which the organisation operates. Sustainable commerce and stewardship enable long-term relationships between the individual, the organisation and the society in general.



To manage a team or organisation on the basis of the intrinsic motivation of its people puts an important focus on recruitment. It requires a strong emphasis on three traits: integrity, motivation and diversity.

Integrity makes people buy-in to the concept of being developed as a person rather than a ‘role’. It is essential for the community to understand that their strategic direction is a stakeholder benefit, as opposed to a mere shareholder benefit. It is this shared value that cleanses the organisation and its bureaucracy from selfish behavior and greed. Strategic direction and corporate culture needs that shared value to keep it productive and justifiable to its investors who facilitate the organisation. Investors, however, are only one element of the stakeholder spectrum. An ethically healthy organisation is inclusive to its investors, its employees, its vendors and its customers.

  • its investors shall be rewarded reasonably for taken risk.
  • its employees shall be developed in their meaningfulness and rewarded reasonably.
  • its vendors shall be treated as an extension of its employees. Rewarded reasonably and allowed to develop in the organisation its strategic course.
  • its customers shall be provided with a qualitative product against a reasonable price.

Recruitment needs to be sensitive to this organic view of the organisation in the widest sense. Only then can it acquire the right talent to keep momentum and direction without being hollowed out from the inside. The corporate culture will need a strong ‘self-cleansing’ climate in which its values are discussed and shared. This requires, in turn, a strong motivation to continuously challenge and reward each other in a transparent, safe and fair environment. When a strong climate has been established it only needs to be fed with new energy to grow.

For this reason diversity of the people community is key. Not only does an organisation need new recruits to grow and compensate for attrition, it needs continues diversification of its community mindset.

By nature people align in thought and practice. this comes with a substantial risk of groupthink. It is essential for a healthy dialogue on values and direction to feed the organisation with new perspectives. This is why recruitment shall not only focus on resumes and work experience (aptitude) but develop a sensitivity to its organisation to assess where it needs to complement the ‘mindset’ of its current community (attitude).

Dee Hock (Visa): “Hire and promote first on the basis of integrity; second, motivation; third, capacity; fourth, understanding; fifth, knowledge; and last and least, experience.

  • without integrity, motivation is dangerous
  • without motivation, capacity is impotent
  • without capacity, understanding is limited
  • without understanding, knowledge is meaningless
  • without knowledge, experience is blind.
  • experience is easy to provide and quickly put to good use by people with all the other qualities.”
Posted in Blog.