Job Board Journalist: The Unrecognized Engine of Innovation

Peter Weddle

NOTE: The Job Board Journalist is on vacation this week, so we are republishing one of his more popular columns.

Have you ever heard of Dr. John Goodenough? I hadn’t before I read a recent article about him in The New York Times. The good doctor has just filed a patent for a battery technology that may end the era of petroleum-fueled vehicles. That’s headline grabbing “enough,” but here’s what’s even more amazing. Dr. Goodenough is 94 years old … which got me to wondering if job board innovation is something only the young can accomplish.

Today’s culture celebrates the creativity of youth. From the Silicon Valley in California to Silicon Alley in New York City, the media is full of stories about Millennials launching what is sure to be the next unicorn and gray beards who did just that, back when they were twenty-somethings. For at least twenty-five years now, we have been fascinated by technological innovation and convinced that it occurs almost exclusively among those who have yet to enter the hoary expanse of middle age.

And yet, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that such innovation is actually a human trait independent of age. Consider this:
• The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation conducted a study in 2016 which found that inventors peak in their late 40s and are most productive in the last half of their careers.
• Similarly, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Hitotsubashi University in Japan did a study which found that the average inventor sends in their first patent application at the age of 47 and that the highest volume of new patent submissions comes from inventors over the age of 55.

Now, just to be absolutely clear, I’m not saying those in their twenties are incapable of doing inspired and innovative work. Of course, they are. And, I’m also not saying that every person over the age of 55 brings innovative ideas to the table. Some, maybe even many don’t. What I am saying is that age is not a barrier to creating new and valuable ideas, whether it’s for a car battery or for a job board.

Leveraging Wisdom to Drive Innovation

Since companies in general and job boards, in particular, are operated by people, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that age is not a determinant of organizational innovation either. Said another way, “old” job boards – or perhaps a more socially acceptable designation would be “mature job boards” – are just as capable of creating advances in talent acquisition products and services as their more junior brothers and sisters.

So, what’s holding them back? Absolutely nothing. In fact, mature job boards regularly announce new products and services – they just don’t get the same public recognition as developments introduced by new sites. An even greater problem, however, is that mature site innovations are nowhere near what they could be. They are held back by the cultural bias that innovation is a young site’s game, and that view diminishes the growth of both individual job boards and the industry at large.

Mature job boards – which I would define as those that have been in operation for five or more years – have both a competitive advantage and a competitive disadvantage in implementing innovation.
• The advantage is wisdom. Experience teaches us a lot about what will work, what won’t and where the boundaries are when it comes to customer needs and acceptance. Many new companies – even those with truly innovative products and services – often fail to do sufficient homework on the market and their competitors, so a good understanding of those factors can give a mature job board a leg up.
• The disadvantage is habit. It’s easy to get locked into a rut, especially when the products and services you have always offered still seem to be valued by customers. Unfortunately, however, customer preferences and needs change and so do the options they can find in the marketplace, so standing pat with what you’ve always sold is a sure-fire formula for obsolescence, irrelevance or both.

Pundits and experts declared job boards dead or dinosaurs with the advent of – pick your poison – xraying and flipping websites, social recruiting, freemium sites and now, Google and Facebook. Yet, year-after-year, those same job boards rank as the first or second greatest source of external new hires by employers. Why? Because job boards excel at offering innovations in online sourcing and recruiting. And much of that innovation has and must continue to come from job boards that have been “good enough” to hang around for awhile.

Food for thought,

The Job Board Journalist by Peter Weddle is brought to you by TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.

Mark Your Calendars! TAtech’s 2017 events include:
• September 27-29, 2017 Denver: The TAtech Fall Congress & Deal Center, with The World Job Board Forum and the 2017 ReSI Awards Gala.
• March 13-14, 2018 Dublin, Ireland TAtechEurope 2018, The TAtech Industry Congress in Europe – the premier event for recruitment technology thought & business leaders worldwide.
• April, 2018 in Las Vegas: The TAtech Spring Congress & Deal Center. See the 2017 conference details here.
• June 5-6, 2018: The TAtech Leadership Summit on Programmatic Ad Buying. See the 2017 conference details here.


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