Agile Talent


One of the worst parts of being a virtual employee is that I rarely get the opportunity to physically interact with my coworkers. I sit in my office at home, and use the phone, Skype, Twitter, and Instant Messenger to communicate with the other BSG Alliance folks. So, when I have the opportunity to fly to Texas and have some face time, I always jump at the chance.

This week, my chance was the People Team meeting in Austin, TX. We’re sitting around, drinking copious amounts of diet Coke and discussing plans for making sure that we can effectively innovate solutions for our human resource challenges.

As part of the meeting, we had a working lunch from Jason’s Deli. They brought in a big platter of sandwiches, cookies, brownies, and a big old bag of ruffly potato chips. As we were eating, my boss held up a chip and said:

Wow! This looks like Texas!

Our Texas-marked chip

And it did. So Katie “Rockstar” Meenan, our new recruiter for the New York office, decided that it might be fun to put the potato chip up on eBay. As she was adding the eBay entry, our brainstorming took hold, and we had her add a link to the BSG Alliance careers site. After all, BSG Alliance paid for the potato chip, so we should get some benefit from Katie’s eBay sale!

Katie started the bidding at 50 cents. Within minutes, the bidding was up to $2.00. This morning, it’s at $3.25. Bidding ends next Monday. I fully expect that Katie’s winning bid will be well over $5. And I hope that the word-of-mouth we generate helps establish BSG Alliance as the kind of fun, innovative company that people really want to join.

UPDATE – 1/29/08 – 2:02 PM CST

Katie is donating the proceeds to the Austin Parks Foundation. Get those bids up there!

The bids are up to $74.  Let’s get this puppy above $100 and show Austin Parks Foundation that people really DO care!

I am trying to find ways to be more creative. I like having ideas. I like having creative ideas even more. In my quest to become more creative, I find myself constantly hunting for tools to help me achieve “creativity nirvana.” One tool I’ve uncovered is a funky web site called GetFreshMinds.com. You know it must be cool since the author’s name is Katie, and, as we all know, Katie is the greatest name in the world. But, once again, I digress.

When I was reading one of Katie’s recent posts about innovation lessons she learned in 2007 I was led to IdeaList, a site where anyone can post an idea and get feedback from the community at large. There are a lot of really interesting ideas on IdeaList (not, however, this one), but one caught my eye because it is very much in line with what BSG Alliance calls Agile Talent.

The “idea” is actually a design contest sponsored by Samsonite. Samsonite wants to bring a new product to market, and they are looking outside their own design team for the right idea. They’re going worldwide, seeking a solution in the global marketplace, on-demand. The top prize is 5,000 Euros, and the total of all the prize money is 11,500 Euros (I had to look up the conversion on Google – it’s just under $17,000). $17,000 is a paltry sum for a company whose quarterly revenue is almost $300MM. I don’t have access to their budgets, but I think it’s safe to say that Samsonite’s product development group has a yearly budget well in excess of $17,000. For a fraction of what they could spend on a handful of internal ideas, Samsonite is getting potentially hundreds of ideas from an external talent pool – all for a total of $17,000 in prize money (and, yes, the overhead of coming up with the contest, marketing it, yaddayaddayadda).

By looking outside its walls for creative ideas, Samsonite is implementing Agile Talent. They are coming up with innovative ways to engage new thought leaders, without the burden of bringing them on as employees. They are getting the very best ideas that people have to offer, and they are not required to invest any capital up front. It’s like getting an employee to work for you for months, and only paying her if she actually produces something you like and can sell. It’s a very effective way to remain flexible, efficient, and profitable in the 21st Century.

In their book Wikinomics, Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams discussed another company that uses this type of Agile Talent to decrease time-to-market and increase innovation – Procter & Gamble. From the Wikinomics web page, they have this to say:

Smart, multibillion dollar companies like Procter & Gamble that cultivate nimble, trust-based relationships with external collaborators to form vibrant business ecosystems that create value more effectively than hierarchically organized businesses.

Through this design competition, Samsonite is exploring a new landscape in human resources. They are building a community of “workers” to provide talent in an on-demand capacity – when Samsonite needs new ideas, they can call upon the community (the network, if you will), and can expect to get the right answers, right away. This is Agile Talent.

Agile Talent is a key factor in successful Next Generation Enterprises. Once you combine an innovative resource pool with a distinctive customer experience, agile & collaborative technologies, education, and research, you have the makings of an organization that will thrive in today’s hypercompetitive global marketplace.