Are You An Innovator or An Optimizer?

It's a choice you have to make early on in your career - as soon as you step out of college.

You can go on and find a place in a company, within an industry - and spend your best years there learning on that job, or in that particular industry. You'll get far because there experience (and thus, seniority) is often measured in time. And time has the habit of accumulating or merely passing. 

Also, knowing the industry inside-out, you can optimize better than anyone else. And HR will love you and hunt you for your next assignment in the same industry, adding cost saving over cost saving and making boards happy.

Or you can go and find a place in a company that deals with many industries: advertising, market research, management consultancy, branding or even law. And there you spend nights honing your skills on plenty of industries. Here experience in measured in projects done and degree of creativity.

Yet, no HR will ever hunt you down because they don't know what to do with you: you don't have the pedigree of the "same company/same industry/same role". What you do know is how to innovate, and for HR innovation is anathema - they don't know how to assess creativity, having a point of view, cross pollinating from various industries. For them this is a nuisance. Ironically, you don't get that far as in option 1 - because, simply - companies are built to optimize and defend the status quo.

Innovation is risk and companies build processes to defend risk.

Still, I'm feeling hopeful that the VUCA environment we are living in, will threaten so many industry models that the board with HR in tow will come running looking for innovators.

Cheers all innovators,

I.