SmartRecruiters Blog

How to Hire Superconnectors to Boost Your Innovation

This is a guest post from our partner marketplace partner Saberr

In a strongly bonded team, good ideas grow without force and bad ideas die without remorse. From Pixar to SpaceX, cultivating ideas is what makes today’s most innovative teams succeed.

It’s no wonder that innovation and strong teams have become the top strategic goal for most companies. Unstable markets, fickle customers, disruption by nimble startups and exponential change in technology all call for companies to be innovative in how they operate and serve customers.

But why innovate?

Innovative teams are not just about more ideas: they are about recognizing good ideas and acting on them. Innovation also manifests itself in different ways. An innovative sales team will constantly work on improving their activation metric by experimenting with novel approaches, whilst an innovative product team will come up with next best thing. Yet both will matter greatly to revenues and staying relevant in the marketplace. But the ingredients, the ideas, aren’t enough. The process matters even more, and that process is all about people interacting. It’s about people laughing around a whiteboard and it’s about people nodding as somebody speaks. The process is all about relationships.

So if you can often recognize innovation when you see it after the fact, how can you recognize ‘innovators’ when hiring?

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Where do good ideas come from?

Professor Sandy Pentland from MIT puts forward a compelling vision of what innovation in teams looks like in his “Social Physics: How good ideas spread” book. It’s a team where:

  1. Everybody in the team forms supportive relationships with one another, all of similar strength. This is easy to assess in an established team, so the key in a hiring context is to try and forecast it.
  2. People in the team are broadly connected outside of that team. They maintain relationships to different social circles unrelated to the team or each other. They use these connections to discover new ideas. This is what makes them Superconnectors.
  3. They bring those new ideas back into the team to innovate in both solutions and process.


So what does an innovation-helping hire like?

Putting this together we know that we want candidates to be Superconnectors in order to bring in the broadest set of ideas. We also want them to have strong relationships with their team to churn and grow those ideas in an “anything goes” environment.

To achieve this when hiring:

1. Hire broadly, and hire broadly connected people.

Make sure you recruit from different sources: if you are always hunting on LinkedIn you are limiting the number of social circles you can connect to.

Ask people during the interview “where do your best ideas come from?” or “who do you listen to for inspiration?”. If their answers are always to do with people at work then they are probably not going to connect you to many other networks.

2. Hire for great relationships.

Bringing in great ideas is of no use if they can’t be aired in a supportive environment, and constructively attacked without harm. Hiring people who will quickly form solid relationships throughout the whole team is really important in order to get this environment in place. This is where Saberr can help with our “relationship forecasting” assessment.


Remember the kitten rules of innovation: “We love each other in the basket, but somebody gotta reach outside the basket for ideas.” 😺

Sandy Rogers

Chief Scientist at Saberr. Sandy has a PhD in astrophysics, and after having discovered hundreds of galaxies, now brings the cutting edge of data science to all of Saberr's products.