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Talent and Innovation Are Abundant, Not Scarce

Talent and Innovation Are Abundant, Not Scarce

By Rajeev Peshawaria

If you look at any CEO survey asking about the top business challenges they see ahead of them, finding exceptionally talented people who can innovate quickly is almost always one of them. Over the last couple of decades, this problem has been so universal that back in 2001, three McKinsey consultants even published a famous book called The War for Talent.   Well, great talent may have been scarce back then, though I am not entirely sure. After all, how can talent be scarce when there are 7.5 billion of us on planet Earth? I believe, the problem isn’t the non-availability of great talent, but rather one of finding it.  Traditionally. the recruitment industry has relied on inefficient personal networks and campus hiring to spot talent.  Both methods exposed recruiters to a very small segment of available talent.  As for innovation, it has been confined to secretive R&D departments and incubators.  Today, with the 24/7 connectivity enabled social media revolution in full swing, all of this has changed. If there ever was a war for talent, it is over.  There are plenty of great, innovative people out there, and it has gotten a lot easier to find them.

Consider Lays.  Using social media, the company launched a  “Do Us a Flavor” crowdsourced campaign to have consumers create their own chip flavors.  The campaign ran for ten months, after which the winner – Cheesy Garlic Bread – added 8% to overall Lays sales in the three months after its launch in 2013.

Or consider a recent example from within my own company.  We wanted to produce a video trailer to promote my forthcoming book.  One of my colleagues suggested that we run a crowdsourced campaign amongst local universities offering multimedia courses, and offer a small prize to the winning entry. Not only did we expect to get a great video in record time for much less than what it would cost to engage a professional production company, we also thought having students create something would give us a young and vibrant end product.  As we were preparing to launch the campaign, Michele, one of our own colleagues, literally produced a concept video over the weekend to showed it to us. We learned that she had been regularly producing such videos in her spare time, and had gotten quite good at it. Since she had also contributed to the research behind the book, we saved valuable time in explaining the concept to students. We decided to have her produce the video, which she did in no time, and enjoyed doing so very much.  Great talent was available right in our own backyard, but we had no idea. Thanks to crowdsourcing, we identified it to everyone’s great delight, saving both time and money.

Crowdsourcing is not a new phenomenon.  In fact, it has been around for centuries under different names. Consider the Oxford English Dictionary, which started out in the late 18th century as an open appeal by Professor James Murray to collate English idioms and phrases. Over the course of several decades, thousands of volunteers around the English-speaking world sent Murray, who lived in Oxford, England, hundreds of thousands of letters containing the definition of specific English words. These contributors were all strangers to Murray, were unpaid, but working together as one to collate the definitions and origins of every word in the English language. Murray’s project took 70 years to complete, but the Oxford English Dictionary was arguably history’s first massively crowdsourced collation of English knowledge.

We now live in the open source era of breakneck speed, 24/7 connectivity, high empowerment enabled by social media, and total transparency. While I believe that talent was always abundant, and crowdsourcing has always been around, the open source era enables much more effective and efficient use of crowdsourcing to drive talent recruitment and innovation.  If someone is talented but not interested in fulltime employment, the gig economy of today allows you to tap into their creativity and energy on a project basis. If someone is not available in your own location, connectivity enables working remotely. Leaders and organizations that fail to fully understand and leverage what Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum famously calls “The Fourth Industrial Revolution,” risk being left behind in these exciting times.

Join us on Thursday, March 1 for Skillsoft Off the Shelf Book Club Webinar: Reinventing Management for the Digital Age.

Sign up for this webinar here.

This webinar is part of Skillsoft Off the Shelf, a virtual book club for modern learners. Check out the details at to watch the launch video interview with the author and get access to the book resources offered on the Skillsoft platform, Percipio.

Rajeev Peshawaria is the author of Open Source Leadership and the CEO of The Iclif Leadership and Governance Centre. Prior positions include Global Chief Learning Officer of both Coca-Cola and Morgan Stanley, and senior roles at American Express and Goldman Sachs. Rajeev provides speaking and consulting services globally to organizations in both the public and private sectors.

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