21 Growth Drivers for the Future
To adapt and survive, high-growth firms must invest in expansive learning and not just rely on buying skills from the job market. Growth is not just a mindset but an embedded pattern of behaviour that we can identify, select, develop and reward. Dare2Know has identified 21 future growth drivers that can provide a pragmatic guide for hiring, organisation and development.
The hiring conundrum: build, buy or rent?
As the fallout from the failure of FTX, Silicon Valley Bank and others, and the downward pressure on innovation funding tightens further, there will be a renewed focus on which companies are resilient and “built to last”, able self-generate growth. This alchemy is not magic. There are well-understood psycho-dynamic patterns that enable us to recognise those leaders who can grow into the future, as opposed to those who have in-demand skills today but might soon derail.
This situation is no accident. Governments, educational institutions and research agencies fret over skills gaps, and this has tended to focus our attention on transactional and easily identifiable “hot” skills.
In reality, trying to define skills gaps is like chasing rainbows, and the intensity of innovation speeds up. Rather than close some notional skills gap on a specific technology, we should focus on evergreen competencies and develop a broad range of build, buy or rent options to fulfil the particular short term need.
For example, automation fills skills gaps far faster than hiring and training humans to do relatively transactional and mechanistic work. But, leading others, empathic communication, design thinking, creativity, and coaching, all require highly developed human skills and are unlikely to be automated any time soon.
Top of the CEO Agenda
This is now top of the CEO agenda. As consultancy DDI reported:
“First and foremost, the C-suite needs to get serious about training leaders to practice empathy and build stronger relationships with their teams. “Executives…” cited having ineffective leaders as the top reason they would want to leave their company.” In fact, executives “who said their company’s leaders lacked interpersonal skills were 3.5X more likely to say they intended to leave within a year.” (2).
Pre-covid, we got so used to an on-tap, uberised, outsourced workforce that companies large and small have taken their eye off the development of the development ball. The “great resignation” and the need to fuel the post-covid recovery place enormous strains on talent acquisition and retention, just as another bow-wave of technological innovation breaks over us.
The post-covid recovery has also seen heightened demands for greater equality, diversity and inclusion. The extremities in wealth and access to opportunities become extreme. Strikes and disputes over pensions are raging across the developed economies, including Amazon factories. To highlight this social inequality, a report published this year by the Scottish government made clear:
“…despite more than half of Scotland’s population being female, currently one in five of Scotland’s entrepreneurs are women, while startups founded by women in Scotland receive only 2% of overall investment capital. This is despite copious evidence that the entrepreneurial and related capabilities of women are equal to those of men.”(3).
Development for diversity
Similar patterns are replicated throughout the business world, with women, minorities, LGBTQ+, the low waged and the neuro-diverse too often excluded from access to innovation funding. There is an urgent need to accelerate the development of these demographic groups and to foster a culture where they can be fully included at the top table. We are far from achieving this.
The defining competency of innovative teams and startups in future will be their capacity to grow and develop together in ways that are complementary in their ways of working together but which enable the organisation to adapt and grow as a whole. For example, Deloitte’s report on the lack of diversity in the FinTech industry states the following:
“whilst 30% of the FinTech workforce is female, only 17% of senior FinTech roles are held by women.” Yet, it is known that women are co-equal in terms of financial decision-making and it simply makes no sense for a largely male techno-elite to be developing products and services for a demographic it can’t possibly represent or fully empathise with.
In part, this means recognising the wider qualities that we know really count in business rather than looking too narrowly at specific skills in demand in the here & now.
Development for sustainability
The trouble with this skills-led approach to resourcing is that the demand for skills can shift rapidly. Consider how new technologies like ChatGPT4, Unity, AirTable, and Hubspot have commoditised and automated functions previously dominated by scarce and in-demand professional cliques. It is not that the need for skills and expertise has disappeared. These skills are a threshold and not a differentiating factor.
As the research shared below indicates, if businesses compete on skills alone, they will typically gain only temporary advantage and might well invite longer-term disadvantages by attracting those with an exaggerated reliance on their supposed talent.
The difficulty is that, by definition, innovation involves tackling challenges no one else has faced before. The temptation is to rely on those with tried and tested skills, qualifications, prior experience, credentials, and shovel-ready skills, excluding others. As well as the complexity, business is characterised by intensification, with waves of innovation landing faster and faster. In response, hiring has been seen as a purely transactional matter of acquiring skills off the job market, with longer-term development left to larger firms and universities.
Moreover, in our VUCA-dominated world, the reality is that the underlying competencies we need will not be readily available on the market. As we move forward into knowledge-rich environments, team size is growing, which means that the demands of collaborative working are also expanding. Increasingly, even smaller firms and startups will need to hire people for their growth potential and develop them rather than expect “oven-ready” talent to be instantly available. The good news is that the cost and ease of deploying technologies to help with this are falling (see below).
In fact, at Dare2Know, the defining competency of innovative teams and startups in future will be their capacity to grow and develop together, in terms of complementary ways of working and the ability to adapt to the external environment.
Growth vs Talent Mindset
By now, there is broad recognition for Carol Dweck’s (4) characterisation for the distinction between a growth mindset and a talent mindset. However, too many discard her key insights in the urgent hunt for today’s skills. Of course, Growth and Talent are not binary opposites. It is likely that growth-minded people are already developing valuable skills, but the reverse is different: Skilled people good at passing exams aren’t necessarily developing the capacity for growth.
So, there is an important distinction.
Dweck (4) points out that it isn’t simply that those with a talent mindset have competed and succeeded in tests; they approach EVERY task as if it is a test. And this is where things go awry. The star model might have worked in the days of the CEO superstar 1990s or the pioneer days of the internet in the 2000s. But it now looks increasingly outmoded, and the research data backs this up.
The research tells us: It’s growth drivers that generate sustainable performance.
Hiring for talent only works up to the point where internal competition and status conflicts arise. After that, there is, in fact, a negative correlation as more skilled employees are added to the team. To quote Swaab et al., in “The too much talent effect” (5):
“talent facilitates performance—but only up to a point, after which the benefits of more talent decrease and eventually become detrimental as intrateam coordination suffers.” (5)
The key is task inter-dependence – no one can do it by themselves. And this is an increasing phenomena in our complex world.
Just consider one piece of research from science. Indeed, this is an area where we would expect a focus on “pure” talent”, credentials, and qualifications to explain scientific productivity, right? Wrong. Relationships, in the form of “super-ties”, long enduring collaborative relationships, have a clear impact on the level of productivity of scientific teams. As a research study reported:
“Our longitudinal approach reveals that scientific collaboration is characterised by a high turnover rate juxtaposed with surprisingly frequent “life partners.” We show that these extremely strong collaborations have a significant positive impact on productivity and citations—the apostle effect—representing the advantage of “super” social ties characterised by trust, conviction, and commitment.” (6).
In another study produced in 2010, researchers identified certain social factors that helped explain why some teams performed better than others in ways that could not be explained simply by the aggregated individual intelligence. The authors, Woolley et al, write:
“we find converging evidence of a general collective intelligence factor that explains a group’s performance on a wide variety of tasks. This “c factor” is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group.” (7).
What should we hire for
In our research drawing upon literature reviews and data from psychometric tools, we have developed a list of twenty-one defining growth factors that innovative teams need to hire for. These twenty-one factors are clustered into six categories, or elements, which evergreen a business:
|Coaching||Building a learning alliance|
|Sustainability||Wellness & self-care|
Each of the 21 Growth Drivers manifests in each element in slightly different ways. For example, design thinking features in the following ways:
|Leadership||in the form of setting a vision for wider stakeholder value|
|Innovation||in terms of tabla rasa, a clean sheet of paper approach|
|Enterprise||in terms of spotting novel opportunities and discontinuities|
|Creativity||by demonstrating a problem-solving element|
|Coaching||by challenging self limiting beliefs|
|Sustainability||by embedding ethical use|
The 21 Growth Drivers Model
To avoid simply becoming a wishlist, leaders need to identify the specific elements they need for their business’s future. Getting that mix right in the context of their business, and delivering results on the ground, will be the art & craft of leadership development.
The way we hire?
The way we hire will need to change too. Simply checking for academic qualifications and technical skills will need to take second place to a more in-depth, relational process that might unfold over time and comprise the following:
|In-depth interviewing by teams|
|Focus on relationships|
|Build trust through assignments & collaborative projects|
|Referrals from trusted sources|
|Focus interviewing on life events, not just technical skills|
|Search for evergreen capabilities (leadership, innovation, end so on)|
|Development planning and support|
Much of this already happens in progressive best-in-class employers, but this must become normalised across the industry. We can no longer rely on mining skills from a technocratic elite already in short supply and failing to create sustainable equity and inclusion. We need to find a better way.
Resources to Help
Dare is an online development centre featuring the 21 Growth Driver model, enabling you to plan, recruit, organise and develop current and future leaders of a business. It combines proprietary tools and long-proven instruments in a highly accessible, self-paced, self-directed social learning platform.
- Gartner, 2021 (https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2021-02-03-gartner-hr-research-finds-fifty-eight-percent-of-the-workforce-will-need-new-skill-sets-to-do-their-jobs-successfully)
- DDI, 2023 (https://www.ddiworld.com/global-leadership-forecast-2023/ceo-challenges)
- Pathways (2023); Scottish Government (https://www.gov.scot/publications/pathways-new-approach-women-entrepreneurship/pages/2/)
- Dr Dweck, C (2019); (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mindset-Updated-Changing-Fulfil-Potential)
- Swaab, R.I. (2014) (The Too-Much-Talent Effect: Team Interdependence Determines When More Talent Is Too Much or Not Enough)
- Peterson, A.M., PNAS (2015/112 (34) E4671-E4680) Quantifying the impact of weak, strong, and super ties in scientific careers (https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.1501444112_);
- Woolley, AW., Science (Sep 2010 Vol 330, Issue 6004): The Too-Much-Talent Effect: Team Interdependence Determines When More Talent Is Too Much or Not Enough (https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.1193147);