The theme explored in this article is really interesting, and comes back again to things that we regularly discuss with our clients. Often the temptation is to go out and find people who are the same, same industry, career path, education, as themselves or the people they already have in their teams. Which of course to a certain extent makes sense - shared knowledge and understanding can be powerful - or powerfully reinforcing, and it can be comforting, but does it inspire change and innovation, or as this article says, does it just create an echo chamber?
Like the saying which Einstein didn't seemingly ever actually say, and I will paraphrase, you cannot do the same thing over again and expect different results. You need that challenging voice, different perspective to truly move things forward.
It is an important part of the job that we do in executive search. We will often hear the objections - we have an internal talent team already or our hiring manager has an extensive network which they can go to. But this again can result in the same issues - the internal talent team might have hundreds of positions to fill for multiple hiring managers, and sometimes no matter how hard you work the challenge becomes too big - they need help and support, a clean pair of eyes or a specialist in an area (such as Cyber IT and Industrial Cyber). The hiring manager might have an amazing network, but it could be made up of peers from a similar background and experience, it could also be politically difficult to actively approach people.
Our job is to provide specialist insights and knowledge. To take our clients story to the market, and to also provide a different perspective, an alternative voice which challenges and supports in equal measure. To bring options they would not have previously considered, we recently helped one of our clients to appoint an Innovation Director - which I have written about in one of our case studies. The client is a 100+ year old business with a rich history in traditional heavy industry areas.
We presented the successful candidate from a start up software technology business, a company profile which would not have been on their radar and which was met at first with some hesitancy, but resulted in a key hire for the long term strategy of this business.
As this article highlights - to be different, to grow and develop and to be successful in whatever form that takes, we need to think differently, challenge ourselves and be challenged, and as Gareth Southgate says, the best way to improve is by;
"...listening to people who know things that I don't... That's how you learn."
Which for Gareth may nor may not result in him being the most successful England manger in 55 years.
The tragedy is that people in echo chambers often don't even realise they are trapped. This is a point made by the novelist David Foster Wallace, who tells a story that starts in a fish tank. "There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish, who nods at them and says 'Morning, boys. How's the water?' And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then one of them looks at the other and goes, 'What the hell is water?'" Wallace's point is that when we are surrounded by people who think the same way, we can overlook the obvious. Classic examples include Blockbuster, which missed the opportunities of the internet despite dominating the movie rental business, and Kodak, which was so fixated on print photography that it never took the opportunities afforded by digital.