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Skills homogeny hurts innovation

by Miki Saxon

Yesterday I wrote about avoiding mental homogeny when fostering innovation; the same holds true for skills homogeny.

As with MAP, people tend to gravitate towards people whose skills are within their or their group’s. Additionally, managers are often unaware of the full range of skills available within the group.

The fix for skills homogeny is far simpler, since it requires awareness and mechanical action, rather than changes in MAP.

Use this three-step process.

  1. Skills survey: Have each person in your group create a complete list of all their skills, not just the ones they’re using in their current job, but also those from previous positions and companies, as well as skills they’ve developed outside of work. Have them rate each skill 1-5 (five being the strongest) based on their expertise. (I’ve yet to see a manager do this who wasn’t surprised at the results.)
  2. Skills set matrix: Using a spreadsheet, create a matrix of the information.
  3. Repeat the survey and update the matrix twice a year; add every new hire’s info immediately.

Be sure to consult the matrix every time you develop a new position or replace someone, whether through promotion or attrition.

Knowing all this gives you tremendous staffing flexibility. For example, you may have someone in your group who’s developed the needed skills elsewhere and would be thrilled to move to the new project. Then, using the matrix, you can design the new position to fill other skill gaps, both current and future.

The end result is a well-rounded organization of people inspired to learning new skills, because they know that they won’t be relegated to a rut just because “that’s what they’ve always done.”

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