Human beings have been rolling along for a few million years or so, yet the ingenuity, fresh thinking, bold, adventurous creativity of our species still regularly amazes us.
Take Velcro and Post-It Notes–who doesn’t wish they’d thought of that? Or a recent favorite of mine: WD40. And, when it comes to digital revelations, online shopping, social media, and smart phones just breach the list of things I wish I’d come up with.
When looking for a new opportunity, we often look to the old for inspiration. We like to play it safe by iterating on the tried and true. Success might be found this way, but the better chance is that we are going to be crushed by our already established competition. Unless we devise something new and improved, we become competitive risk.
In many situations, we aim to avoid or minimize our risk of exposure. Our preference for competitive risk is a manifestation of that. Taking a competitive risk feels less precarious because it involves engaging in an opportunity that is already established and has proven successful. We think we’re safer because we can see and quantify demand for our product/service. But, we risk being less certain to compete and win in the market; as a late entrant, we are unlikely to do so in most cases
I like to use the example of my friend’s triplets who, a few summers ago, were casting about for a way to earn money. They settled on setting up a lemonade stand—with a twist. Instead of rolling out their business in front of their home, on the corner of their street, or adjacent to their local grocery store, the kids opted for the sidelines of a nearby high school football field, just as practice was concluding. They weren’t sure their lemonade would sell at the football field, but they knew there were no other kids selling there and that there were thirsty athletes.
The result? They earned $75 in about twenty minutes. Don’t you wish you’d thought of that when you were ten?
This is a great example of market risk. It feels risky to us because we don’t have data to prove our new idea will be well-received, but it actually greatly increases the odds that our gamble—if it pays off—will pay off in a big way. Although usually applied to entering a market with something new, I also like to apply it to hiring strategy. Are you desperately searching for someone to fill a position at your company? The gap is a real pain point, and you need to act quickly? In this scenario, I adapt the old adage “married in haste, repent at leisure” to “hire in haste, repent at leisure.”
This is a good time to examine risk. You could hire an experienced, Ivy League-educated MBA who has admirably performed the same job for the past four years, and you’ll feel pretty safe doing this—it’s a proven method.
A nontraditional employee can be a storehouse of education, skill, and experience. By looking to hire where others aren’t, we can discover human resources that aren’t picked-over or overpriced—and capable of offering great return on investment for your company. Unconventional hiring can lead to unconventional success when we are willing to embrace market risk and hire where others hesitate.