Fostering Excellence
Bringing out the best in each of us
The ability to think outside one’s field in order to solve problems within one’s field is becoming increasingly important in a global economy that values creative problem solving skills. Competitive markets place a premium on a company’s ability to creatively address new challenges, competition and market demands. Having a workforce that can think beyond their specialty and solve these problems is a critical asset in meeting these challenges.

Traditional hiring methods often do not have the mechanisms required to identify those applicants who can do more than just complete the core tasks affiliated with their job description. When you need something more than task completion-creative thinking-you need hiring mechanisms that can deliver that attribute in a new hire. Focusing on job applicants with diverse training milestones, creative hobbies, or rich multicultural experiences can help you more quickly identify employees with a stronger propensity to creative problem solving. Here are some things to look for in your candidacy pool when seeking creative thinkers:

How to Hire Creative Thinkers

An interest in art: Art exercises different mental muscles than math or other highly analytical tasks. Those with a passion for art will generally spend their off time exercising those muscles that you will need in the workplace. Additionally, those with an interest in art will likely approach your traditional problems in non-traditional ways. Don’t let their messy desk get cleaned up either! A “messy” work environment stokes their creative juices!

Double Major or Minor: Those who come to the table with additional educational milestones (degrees or certifications) in a non-related field also come with outside-the-box training. The different fields they will have studied have different investigative approaches and philosophies that may be just want you need to solve your non-traditional problem. This allows them to think cross-functionally, which may be just want you need to overcome your current business problems. Don’t discount their additional training!

Experience Abroad: Having had a significant amount of time living or working abroad brings a lot of perspective to the work place. Having been immersed in cultures with different values, different cultural assumptions and different ways of solving problems, these employees will have the ability to see a problem from a variety of angles. Their diverse cultural experiences can design solutions outside the reach of the predominant culture. 
Wide range of interests: Folks with a wide range of interests can leverage a diverse set of experiences to conceive solutions that would otherwise evade those with a narrow set of experiences. Look for this when you are selecting your next new hire. Inquire after their interests and hobbies; this intangible is very valuable.

Speaks a foreign language: Learning a foreign language requires someone to completely relearn not only how to speak, but also how to think. Thinking in a foreign language means framing thoughts and phrases within a different cultural context and viewing the world in a completely different way. These folks will have much more to offer in the way of viewing problems in alternative ways. They also offer you language skills which can help when liaising with foreign partners!

Hiring highly creative people does not happen on accident, it is done as a part of a deliberate process. Evaluate your hiring procedures and find ways to value foreign languages, experience abroad, wide educational backgrounds as well as the other intangibles discussed. This will give you an edge over your competitors in building a powerful team capable of creatively solving your business problems as well as completing the tasks associated with their professions core competencies.

Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter and @fosteringexcellence on Facebook.

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