Paul English’s (CEO and co-founder of Blade, and co-founder of KAYAK) appearance at the Innovation Forum presented by the Boston Chamber of Commerce was not your typical conversation around innovation. I anticipated hearing about his techniques and wondered if it would be another presentation filled with some of the most popular buzzwords in business such as “innovative” which last appeared on a top ten list published by LinkedIn.
Paul explained how recruiting the right team is critical to fostering innovation. Paul believes culture and team dynamics are the keys to entrepreneurial success and is passionate about hiring the right people and fostering the right culture. Paul ranks Team, Customers, and Profits – in that order of importance, to building successful companies.
So what does he look for when hiring his team? Paul is focused on four key areas:
- Bandwidth – Can they take on more responsibility?
- Attitude – Key to this is listening skills. Paul’s experience is that hardcore athletes and musicians tend to have great listening skills.
- Diversity – Ethnic, language, academic.
- Lack of dysfunctional behaviors – This one is my favorite. Diverse personalities are valued. Annoying behaviors are not!
Paul promised his employees he will make them more productive and they will have more fun. He hates large, bureaucratic team meetings and encourages decision making at every level. In exchange, he asks for their commitment to be their best and act as “energy amplifiers” for the firm. We can all recognize energy amplifiers as the people who increase the energy around them and the team is excited to work with.
Paul carries this concept when assessing firms for venture capital investing. He rates seed investment requests in three areas:
- 70% Team mojo
- 20% Market opportunity
- 10% The idea
If there are great team dynamics and a realistic market opportunity, the idea has a much better chance of success.
My takeaway? Innovation can be more than a buzzword. With the right team creating the right energy, innovation happens!