How to Hire Innovators: A Conversation with Anant Gandhi

 

I had the opportunity to interview Anant Gandhi recently at our on demand job fair afterparty at the Nashville Entrepreneurship Center. He works on the innovation team at a Nashville-based company as the Innovation Principal.

My primary takeaway: To identify an innovator during the hiring process, ask the candidate about their creativity. 

 
Image credit: Jeff Sheldon / Unsplash

Image credit: Jeff Sheldon / Unsplash

 

He strives to drive innovation at his organization and he's always on the hunt for innovators for his company. Here’s what I learned from him about innovation and hiring.

 

How to Hire Innovators 

Relode: How do you identify someone to hire for an innovative position?

Anat Gandhi: "Ask them about creativity: When’s the last time you were creative? And let them tell you."

R: What’s one experience where you asked that question and you were surprised by the answer? 

AG: "I was surprised in one instance by an individual that came back with historical examples of innovations within our organization that we didn’t even know about.  This person was interested and inspired by what we had done and said that he wanted to get back to basics and do more things like that!  Beyond putting smiles on our faces, this blew our panel away.

"We were just taken aback; we were like, You’re interested in that?

"The fact that this individual actually dug up historical innovations and was driven and energetic energized us about having him on board!"

R: How do you source talent like that? 

"You get really lucky! You have to talk to a lot of people."

 

On Innovation as a Whole

R: What is innovation?

AG: "Adding new value to customers and end users, as well as the enterprise, which includes our teammates as well."

R: What’s your biggest failure as an innovator? 

AG: "I don’t consider failures failures. The biggest failure’s just not trying. If you have an idea and some level of energy behind that idea and you don’t do something about it—that’s failure."

R: When did you start innovating in your life?

AG: "Since the day I was born; so does everyone else. I’ll give you a very simple example:

"Go to a group of kindergartners and ask them, “How many of you are creative?” Basically every kid is going to put their hand in the air. That’s just how it works! Kids truly feel like they are creative. 

"Ask a second grade class. About everyone’s going to raise their hand up. You might have a couple of students that don’t put their hand up. Now, ask the same question to a class in middle school; you’ll see only about 10 hands up in the air with a class of thirty, maybe less."

R: What about a group of adults in their 30s? 

AG: "Maybe one, maybe two. And the reason why is actually pretty simple. It’s because of us; it’s because, again, we suffer from knowing too much about our own time. You’ll have a second grader draw a picture of a horse (at least it’s a horse in their mind), and you’ll have his or her classmate say, 'That doesn’t look anything like a horse.' 

"What just happened is that her creativity was basically subdued. We’ve made them insecure about being creative, and creativity goes hand in hand with innovation.

“The point that I am trying to make is that we are all born creative and innovative, but we do ourselves a huge disservice by instilling a fear of failure within ourselves and others.  If we have a fear of being wrong, then we will never be able to innovate!  I am constantly on the hunt for teammates that don’t have that fear of failure.”


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