Whenever a read a book and come across an idea I like, I always try to get it down on paper and apply it to how I think about the world.   And I always like when interesting ideas come from book’s that I don’t typically think will apply to certain areas of my life but provide tremendous lessons and ways to think about it.

Bill Russell’s “Russell Rules: 11 Lessons of Leadership from the Twientieth Century’s Greatest Winner” has recently been one of those books for me.

This book is chock full of interesting themes and lessons to be learned from one of the greatest athletes of all time, Bill Russell.  And while I enjoyed it immensely with the sports anecdotes, the part that got me the most were the insightful lessons that came with each story.

The one that stuck the most was his take on innovation and will be the subject of this post.  Please bare with me but this is my take on Bill Russell’s thoughts.

Innovation: The Why and Why Not

If you watched Bill Russell play basketball and/or know the history of the game, you know that Russell’s game defied convention at the time.  He was a defense first star when offensive prowess reigned.  He jumped to play defense, which was often looked down upon at the time.  He was a big man that averaged just as many assists as some of the guards on his team.  All in all, he created his own definition of what a “Big Man” should be instead of just relying on the perceptions of the time.

It’s in this way that Bill Russell pushed innovation in the game of basketball.  By asking the questions “Why?” and “Why Not?”.

The Why:   When you think of innovation in whatever you do, it’s not about just thinking outside the box but starting in the very box you want to break out of.  In order to truly innovate, you need to expertly understand the rules of the game you’re playing.  Why do the players do the things they do?  What are the benefits?  And most importantly, what are the constraints that each player faces?

When Russell became a student of the game of basketball it was the rulebook he mastered first.  So he could understand what could and could not be done.

The Why Not: Once you fully understand the rules and constraints of the space you play in.  Now it’s about pushing the boundaries of this area.  You look around and their are “best practices” that are employed daily but they are used because they have worked before or because no one has tried to challenge them.  As a society we need to become better at asking not just why we do certain things but also why do we not do others.  In this way we can continuously challenge and improve what we do.

When Russell played at San Francisco his coach would repeatedly get on him for leaving his feet on defense.  It just wasn’t done at the time.  The key here is there’s nothing in the rulebook that says it “can’t be done”.  So he worked on how he could use jumping to have a positive effect on his defense.

Why Nots of Recruitment Marketing

I challenge you to think about your recruitment marketing strategy and why you focus on the things you do as well as how you can elevate your overall strategy.

And so I’ll leave you with some of my favorite “Why nots” about recruitment marketing.  Why do we put such an emphasis on cost and time to fill but not on conversion and candidate quality metrics?  Why don’t our employer brands mirror and leverage our consumer brands?  Why do we leverage several technologies for recruitment marketing instead of a single Platform?  Mobile is important but why is all we talk about is Mobile Apply and not about leveraging mobile across the entire strategy?  Why don’t we tell stories on our Career Sites or job ads?  Why do we think the candidate experience is all about the application process?  Why aren’t our candidate communication strategies on par with our marketing brethren?  Why do we measure Source of Hire but not Source of Qualified Candidate?

There’s a lot that we can be doing better in recruiting and that’s not to say we are not excelling in many areas.  But to truly get to where we want to be, we’ll have to ask “Why Not?” a whole lot more.

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