A lesson in hiring talent for disruptive businesses from Albert Einstein

Written by Jo Moses, Partner EMEA


“The solution does not exist in the same system that the problem was created.” 

This paraphrase of an Albert Einstein quote was offered to me the other day by a very intelligent individual, to describe the experience of hiring talent for disruptive businesses. It really struck a chord. I am definitely not claiming to be Einstein, or the super smart individual who made the observation, but his explanation chimed with where we have found success. You need to take inspiration from a different system. I really enjoyed my conversation with Benedikt Kloss, Associate Partner, McKinsey & Company.

It is a privilege in my role to work with fascinating businesses that are doing something new. I try to see the world through their eyes. When you’re doing something that hasn’t happened before, how do you make it happen? When you need to build a team to achieve something new, how do you find the right people? How do you know when you have found them? Who do you need in your team of pioneers? A traditional search methodology doesn’t work when you’re looking for something that doesn’t yet exist elsewhere. 

We have found that real superstars are the anomalies. They are people who have done something in their lives that was different to what was expected of them. Often, they are well-travelled, “citizens of the world”, culturally in tune, able to absorb new environments with respect and understanding. Always looking for the next thing to learn and discover. Those who have succeeded in their past corporate environment – but equally were frustrated by it – and genuinely have the appetite to create something new. 

Having the technical skills for the task in hand is vital, but it isn’t enough on its own. The magical person can implement that skillset in a different “system”. They need to have the creativity to imagine a different future, grounded in the realities of what it will take to get there. 

Being “able to handle ambiguity” is easy to say, harder to prove. How do you know whether someone can “defeat the blank page?” Where have they done that before? Which bit of their past life is relevant to yours? Where is the world-leading best and most relevant example of what you’re trying to do? Try to talk to that person and ask: how could that have been done even better? What did you learn? Where do you take inspiration from now? I have started to develop my own informal list of “competencies” essential in a disruptive business. Any additions are welcome – please message me!

For us it is a real privilege to get under the skin of the task in hand and think through all the different facets of the journey. No one person can solve every problem, but the right person, at the right time can make the difference that is needed to achieve the next step. Someone from a different system who has done a particular thing really well. When you have the right person for every critical task, then the pieces of the jigsaw start to fit together. There is nothing that makes me happier than seeing a team of leaders succeeding together, such as the team that we have hired for Vertical Aerospace

To learn more about how we’ve helped disruptive businesses make brilliant connections, please do not hesitate to contact me.