Hire a diverse bunch of smart people and let them talk

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —July 14, 2006
Filed in Employee Engagement

Peering over the fence between disciplines has been a time honoured method for sparking revolutionary ideas. Remember Charles Darwin fruitful dalliance with economics which helped him understand the mechanism driving evolution—natural selection. Ironically, we now have the field of evolutionary economics—the economists are taking more than a peak at what evolutionary biologists are doing. Each new combination creates new ideas.

The maker of fancy speakers and headphones that cancel noise, Bose, have taken a leap into a new field and have developed a shock absorption system for cars based on technology they know well, high-voltage electrical coils and magnets. The authors of the research,  David Hsu and Kwanghui Lim, call the ‘peaking’ process, knowledge bridging and suggest that:

knowledge bridging can help companies bring products to market faster and raise money more quickly.


all a firm has to do to become a knowledge bridger is hire the right people and give them the freedom to follow their curiosity.

This is all reported in Knowledge at Wharton article called: In Biotech Startups, Knowledge Bridging Can Be the Key to Creativity. The article elaborates on Hsu and Lim’s research describing the ways Silicon Valley biotech companies created new patents and using this information to map the lineage of invention in the valley. Knowledge bridging was a noticeable trait of the successful companies and remarkably the only factor they could find that led to knowledge bridging was the act of hiring a variety of researchers. This reminds me of the Larry Prusak quip, when asked what someone should include in a knowledge strategy Larry suggested: hire smart people and let them talk. Perhaps we need to modify this to: hire a diverse bunch of smart people and let them talk.

The research paper that forms the background to this article is here.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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