6 minute read 28 Mar 2018
employee solving puzzle

How thinking differently about customer needs can inspire disruptive innovation

By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.

6 minute read 28 Mar 2018
Related topics Start-ups Innovation

Successful companies always make customers the focal point of their business strategy. But in an era of disruption, is this enough?

Successful organizations listen to customers’ needs and desires for special features, a more intuitive user experience or simply better customer service, and react quickly to get new products out to market. But in an age of disruptive innovation, is it simply enough to put customers’ needs first?

The most innovative companies aren’t just focused on the customer’s needs right now; they’re solving the larger problems they will face in the near future and completely disrupting the market in the process.

Consider the famous quote attributed to Henry Ford: “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Ford thought differently about the customer’s needs and desires, an approach which inspired a disruptive innovation.

He didn’t build the first automobile, but by building the first one that middle class Americans could afford, he changed the perception of the car in people’s minds from an expensive, out-of-reach invention to one of practical use that would profoundly impact transportation around the world.

A failure to adopt an alternative perspective on what customers want will leave companies vulnerable to disruption by a competitor who is thinking differently, and a few steps ahead.

Away with the résumé

Corporate recruiting is one of many areas that is facing disruption from innovative companies looking to change the way candidates are selected — a method that has remained largely the same for decades. Greater automation looks set to reduce jobs, creating more competition, and changing education patterns are forcing recruiters to think differently about the way they identify who has the right skills and mindset to be successful in a role.

The time spent competing for, recruiting and training talent is often a large expense for a company, so it’s important that they don’t waste time and resources on people who aren’t a good fit. With that in mind, how do companies find effective, new ways to identify and attract the best talent, and reshape their customer experience via innovation?

Changing education patterns are forcing recruiters to think differently about the way they identify who has the right skills and mindset to be successful in a role.

Swedish company Sqore provides recruiting companies with innovative new techniques, such as gamification — asking candidates to solve puzzles or quizzes — to attract the best talent. For companies, this is an easy way to see which candidates actually have the skills and knowledge they need.

Meanwhile, applicants that may not have gotten a second look because of their employment history or education level have an equal shot at getting the job, so long as they can demonstrate the relevant skills. By keeping both sets of customers’ needs in mind, Sqore is building customer loyalty, which is invaluable for a business that aims for long-term, sustainable growth.

By thinking about its customers’ future needs rather than just focusing on their current wants — new features, faster customer service, for example —  Sqore is working to solve a growing global problem that is sure to get worse. As an increasing number of job applicants with high levels of education flood companies with CVs, it becomes harder to distinguish among candidates when background is used as the primary factor in determining who is chosen for a particular position. 

“Our mission is to provide equal access opportunities,” says Sqore Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Robert Lyngman. “More people are getting an education, and at the same time more people are getting access to internet, and can acquire skills and knowledge outside of the traditional university or education landscape. What we are trying to do is level the playing field so that everyone can compete on the same level for jobs.”

Finding gaps against the competition

Other innovative companies are finding new ways to appeal to both job-seekers and recruiters at the same time.

New York City-based Switch, which operates on the same principle as the dating app Tinder, allowing potential employees and employers to “match” when there is a mutual interest, has been able to attract both recruiters and in-demand job seekers simply by connecting the two faster. It also is looking to entice people who would be perfect for a particular role, but aren’t actively looking, in more unique and engaging ways than traditional headhunters might.

“Recruiters are trying to connect with [people] who are in demand and may be a little bit more passive — people who aren’t sending out applications or sitting on job boards all day,” CEO Yarden Tadmor says. “It’s a disruptive way to engage with them.”

By allowing recruiters to gain immediate access to the best candidates and charging them a flat US$5,000 fee only for candidates who get hired, Switch has put its recruiting customers’ needs at the forefront of its operation. So far, the company, which is currently operating in New York and San Francisco, has raised over US$6 million in funding. Its users include ​tens of thousands of people looking for jobs and thousands of recruiters looking for workers.

“Most of the case studies [show] that the recruiters are excited about the quality of the candidates and the ability to hire quickly,” Tadmor says.

An employee signs up for online training

The need for speed

Another Swedish start-up, SelfieJobs, allows job seekers to show off their personalities with videos and pictures in addition to highlighting their employment history, skills and background. In appealing to its customers, the company also stresses the importance of speed. “The number one thing for companies is speed,” SelfieJobs CEO Martin Tall says. “We believe if we can increase the simplicity and speed after companies post a job, more applications will be posted. We’ve managed to take that application process down to one or two minutes.”

SelfieJobs, which has raised approximately US$671,000 (€600,000) from Swedish investors and some venture capital funding, has also focused on location as a differentiator. On the company’s Android app, Tall says it has built Google Travel into its Application Programming Interface (API), so a recruiter can search for job seekers near them and job seekers can see how long their future commute might be.

In EY Global Job Creation Survey 2016, 40% of entrepreneurs said they hired more people than originally expected over the previous 12 months. This further reinforces the need for high-growth companies to move quickly.

Companies like SelfieJobs and Sqore are solving larger problems that customers will continue to face on a global scale. As high-growth companies hire faster, there is a greater need for the recruitment process to change and keep up with the demand.

Innovation leads the way

Lyngman, of Sqore, notes that as a Swedish-based start-up that has grown quickly, his firm has had to be creative to serve the needs of a global client base. That requires making technology, scalability and the quality of the product the most important priorities for the company. “We can sit in Stockholm and help companies in Indonesia find and recruit the right talent without actually being there,” he says. “We can do the same in New York or Seattle.”

But what makes Sqore truly innovative is its ability to think differently about what customers want.  The company is essentially revolutionizing an age-old industry that has been slow-moving, often inefficient and exclusive.

“By gamifying the process, we can attract more potential candidates and it’s a way to diversify the talent pool as well as engage people you want to recruit,” says Lyngman. “We help companies select talent on the basis of the level of skill that they've proven, and not on the basis of their background, sex, age or name.”


The most innovative companies are solving the larger problems they will face in the future, and disrupting the market in the process.

About this article

By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.

Related topics Start-ups Innovation