Like The Auto Industry, Compensation Must Create More Hybrids

stickman hybridI read a recent article that discussed the annual Rotman Design Challenge. The competition pits teams from Design and MBA programs to determine the value of design methods in business problem solving. This got me to thinking about the eternal compensation debate of program design, versus business strategy (vs. communication.) The argument is whether design is more or less important than understanding the “business data” and whether both of these are trumped by communication.

The Rotman challenge has been won the past two years by teams from design schools. In fact, the top three placements for the most recent challenge were from designers. Now, it is a challenge on the impact of design methodology, but it was initially created for MBAs to show their skills. This would seem to indicate that understanding design processes creates better results than understanding business processes.

Here’s the catch. The judges said they were disappointed that although designers won the contest, they presented poor business cases for how their designs would create revenue. Most designers provide only vague ideas of how their product could or should be brought to market or how it would turn a profit. The business teams were clearer about the profit potential, even thought their ideas were not winners.

So once again, we are shown that we must collaborate better. Apply these lessons to your company.

Design usually comes from your internal compensation team or an external consultant. But, even the best design is incomplete without the business acumen to make sure it can be, and is, applied in the best possible manner. Compensation designed poured onto the heads of business leaders is about as effective as doing the same thing with a pail of dishwater.

Often a CFO, or new CEO, provides the compensation team with a framework for a program that appears to make perfect business sense. Unfortunately, these plan ideas rarely have the nuance and detail required to work holistically for a diverse company. Designers are often stifled, because the idea comes from such a senior executive. It is hard to create the correct idea from scratch when you must first convince someone senior that they are wrong.

Lastly, but often most critically, communication appears to be the missing component of both types of teams. If the designers could have more clearly communicated how their ideas could be turned into real business, then their dominance would have been supreme. If the MBAs had better communicated how great their ideas were, rather than focusing on the “numbers”, their value may have been clearer to the judges. Both sides tended to communicate from their own expertise and focus, rather than that of their audience. No one wins when communication loses.

Compensation is a clear contender for creating hybrid professionals. Compensation pros come from HR, finance, actuarial sciences and psychology. Just to name a few. To fully realize the true potential of the compensation evolution, we must utilize the skills and processes of the creative designer and the methodical business expert. This must be intertwined with the combined communication expertise of an educator and politician.

Since it is unlikely that any of us will ever possess all of these skills, we must work even harder at creating collaborative multi-disciplinary teams. The speed of the business world and the complexity of our tasks require all of us to utilize new perspectives or risk failure. Until we can create the perfect hybrid individual we need to work harder at creating better hybrid teams.

How can you be defined as a hybrid?