Do You Hire For IQ Or Klout Score?

What is the right balance between intelligence and social connectivity? From an innovation perspective, this difference is very significant. In fact, it can mean the difference between success and failure.

In the past decade, the word "friend" became a verb, the word "like" became a noun, and "tweet" became more than a birdsong. Social technology—originally designed for communication between college co-eds—has since brought down governments in Egypt and Tunisia. Thomas Payne would have been proud.

We are outrageously connected. Today, the average American has roughly 600 online and offline relationships (ironically, our number of "close friends" has remained relatively unchanged at 2.16. And yes, the 0.16 is the one who still owes you money.)

As a result of our hyper-connectivity, we are fast-moving from what management scholar Peter Drucker called the knowledge economy to a social economy. The line is quickly blurring between the value of what we know and who we know. This then begs the question: which is more important? Is it more valuable to have the answer? Or is it more valuable to know who has the answer?

In an academic environment we call the latter cheating. But in the corporate world, does it really matter if you know the answer to the problem, or is it more important that you can find out who does? In very practical terms, consider the impact of our social economy on recruiting new employees and professional development. Given a choice of hiring an expert with a high IQ or a generalist with a high Klout score (a measure of social influence), whom do you hire? Or does it depend upon the task? In sales and marketing roles, the extent of one’s personal and professional network along with his or her influence score should be considered. Shouldn’t it?

What is the right balance between intelligence and social connectivity? From an innovation perspective, this difference is very significant. In fact, it can mean the difference between success and failure.

Consider one of the most famous innovation battles: Tesla vs. Edison.

Nikola Tesla, the multi-talented engineer and father of Alternating Current (AC), was—no doubt—a genius. His knowledge in electrical and mechanical engineering led to a series of inventions that had impacts on radio communication, X-ray technology, and even attempts at intercontinental wireless transmission (his famed Wardenclyffe Tower). Yet, although he beat Edison in setting the electrical standard, he was a recluse and ultimately lived his finals days in room 3327 at the New Yorker Hotel where died in poverty in 1943.

On the other hand, we have his nemesis—Thomas Edison. Edison, whose Direct Current (DC) lost out to Tesla’s technology, led a fruitful life and died a wealthy man. What was the difference between Tesla and Edison?

While there are many, perhaps the most notable difference when it comes to innovation was the nature of their social networks. Tesla had essentially one productive relationship: George Westinghouse (who licensed and commercialized Tesla’s technologies). Edison, on the other hand, was famously well connected. Edison understood the power of social networking long before it became a pick-up tool for college co-eds. Among Edison’s network were automotive pioneer Henry Ford, tire innovator Harvey Firestone, naturalist and essayist John Burroughs, Bishop William Anderson, and—for good measure—the then sitting President of the United States, Warring G. Harding. Known famously as the Vagabonds, in 1918, this creative crew even went camping together in the Smokey Mountains (in Ford’s cars using Firestone’s tires of course).

While Tesla invented in isolation, Edison created out loud. He understood the value of a social network. And while Edison’s original patent application for the electric light bulb was rejected, he acquired and licensed technologies and attracted the best and brightest engineers to join him in the commercialization of his electrical lighting system.

This difference between innovating privately and innovating out loud is one of the most significant differentiators between successful innovators and those that fail. It largely explains the success of new venture accelerators, corporate new venture groups, and even academic researchers. Those with the most robust, engaged, and diverse social networks win. For example, I am a Limited Partner at the new venture accelerator Excelerate Labs in Chicago. Each summer summer, our ten portfolio companies are connected to and coached by over 150 mentors. Imagine not only the sparks of insight that are encouraged, but imagine the connections that are made. Success only happens to those who innovate out loud. Your idea is worthless if no one cares about it, but it’s worth even less if no one knows about it.

Herein lies the fundamental—and often misunderstood—difference between creativity and innovation. Creativity is how you think. Innovation is how you act. In academic circles, cognitive scientists study creativity. Social scientists study innovation. Of course, creativity and innovation are intrinsically connected. However, while most innovators are also creative not all creators are often innovative. Creative people—artists, designers, and inventors—frequently lack the social and political skills required to make their ideas commercially viable. And so they fail.

Organizations suffer the same fate. Those organizations that encourage innovation among their employees yet do not provide the channels of distribution—both internally and externally—for those ideas to be socialized within the company and within the market, often do nothing more than create great expectations and equally great frustration among employees. In order to succeed, we must teach individual employees how to be innovators as much as creators. Thinking differently is only half the battle. Acting differently (notably, learning how to socialize new ideas) can be the difference between success and failure. One of the greatest opportunities to improve talent development is in helping employees learn how to create internal and external coalitions for their creative ideas. Building political equity and market acceptance of an idea is not a skill explicitly taught in school, yet it is perhaps the most fundamental skill that will be required for organizations to succeed in the future.

This shift FROM a knowledge economy TO a social economy raises a number of questions for you to consider with your team:

  • How do you currently evaluate and place prospective employees?
  • Do you consider the social influence of new talent in your recruiting process?
  • Do you have a process for evaluating which types of projects should be managed collaboratively (socially) versus individually?
  • Where appropriate, how do you encourage and foster social networking across your organization?
  • How do you encourage and foster external collaboration outside of your company and across sectors of industry?
  • What incentives and performance management systems do you have in place to encourage "creative teaming" vs. "functional innovation"?
  • What are you doing to help your leaders understand their role in transitioning from a knowledge economy to a social economy?
Andrew Razeghi is a Lecturer at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a popular speaker on innovation and growth. Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrewrazeghi.

This piece was excerpted from Andrew Razeghi’s new book "The Future of Innovation: Creating a Plan to Win" (SlimBooks, 2012), available now.

[Image: Flickr user Kipp Baker]

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16 Comments

  • Ty Fitzgerald

    Love the incorporation of modern day business issues with legends from the past. Truly a great way to frame the debate over knowledge vs. innovation. A fascinating read! BTW: Wrong Payne. Thomas Payne was a book seller. Thomas Paine was the revolutionary. 

  • Roger Attrill

    Anyone with the almost vacuous lack of vision to hire based on Klout scores should just wait and see what happens when they try and *fire* based on Klout scores - because let's face it that is just the flip side of the same coin.

  • seoDamian

    An interesting article. Probably worthy of a lunch discussion with
    hiring managers as to overall company policy/culture. I see having this
    conversation as the key to avoiding a lot of $20k mistakes (hiring the
    wrong match, to be replaced within 15 months) due to hiring for the
    wrong strength. Of course, what they say they want may be different then
    what they actually want, but at least you can start to understand what
    they are really looking for based on who they keep and who feels
    fulfilled.

  • Pragati Bidkar

    Irrespective of the role, a certain amount of reasoning skills are a must. I think IQ is definitely a necessary condition. But it may not be sufficient depending on the job description, the company culture and the person doing the hiring.

    Personal biases and inclinations are the grey areas that may not be tracked or logged anywhere, but any hiring manager looking for a genuine resource will give due importance to 'genius' or education or skills et al.

  • Miriam

    Nothing to do with IQ here but if you are applying for a job in marketing, PR, social media, etc you need to have experience AND evidence that you engage with others online. For a field where you are not utilizing social media your Klout score does not matter. 

  • Valerie Iravani

    Most companies do NOT consider the social connectivity unless the job is related to social media.  And most companies are at least 6-24 months behind the individual's innovation as far as hiring the best candidates with great social connectivity.  Further, experts tend to be introverts, and thus less socially connected.  Not always, but more often.  Generalists tend to be more extroverted and thus more socially connected, and have other avenues of information rather than just their own expertise.

  • RolePoint

    These are all great points, but it’s important to note that no one should focus only on social media. You ask these two questions: How do you currently evaluate and place prospective employees? Do you consider the social influence of new talent in your recruiting process?I think that both of these can be answered by using a smart employee referral program. And with most programs available, being connected via social networks adds ease of use and accessibility to your referrals. So if you’re encouraging employee referrals, you already know the prospective candidates that you’re referred to have a network and social influence, thus allowing you to evaluate them on a different level.

  • Eliza Wright

    Very true.  At my company we get a big cash bonus if we refer someone who gets hired, and it WORKS.  It gives everyone an additional incentive to look out for smart, innovative, compatible people.  Employee referrals help eliminate the need for silly arbitrary hurdles like Klout scores.  

  • Rome

    I would avoid using Edison v. Tesla as an example of success and failure relative to social connection or "innovating out loud." Edison is famously known for dragging Tesla's name and inventions through the mud, including using Tesla's AC motor to slaughter animals such as elephants in public, as a means of propaganda against Tesla's designs. I wouldn't necessarily call this an exemplary example of innovating out loud.

  • Steve Levy

    Andrew...question for you: How does the new burgeoning social leadership expect to create great things when so many are products of a learning society where even 8th place finishers are still receiving Blue Ribbons and Gold Medals for their efforts?

    Innovation is more than acting - it is the product of being able to recognize what others do not (read Edward de Bono's work on "Lateral Thinking") and then not only moving from construct to reality but being able to sell it to the proper people.

    All your social questions notwithstanding, it is relatively easy to game your influence scores if you spend enough time online. As a recruiter, here's my 2 cents: If you're pointing to your Klout score as a measure of how great you are and not focusing on performance metrics associated with your organization's business model, you won't get far with me.

    I hire people to solve problems.

  • Kelly Jo Horton

    Agree. I make my living in the social marketing realm and I would never hire someone based on a Klout score.

  • Jayme Soulati

    Cringe. Klout scores as a measure of ratings, rankings, influence by those who don't live in social media marketing as I do. It was inevitable. 

  • Michael Elling

    Genius is perceiving what others do not.  True genius is explaining it.  Absolute genius is making it reality