Innovative companies, it turns out, are mostly built by one type of employee.

Google exec Eric Schmidt is famous for pioneering a very particular hiring process at the tech behemoth. In his book, How Google Works, Schmidt lays out his vision of the ideal Google employee. Called the “smart creative,” this employee represents the future of high performing knowledge workers.

Loads of organizations are trying to emulate Google, and in doing so are looking to hire smart creatives. Here’s what characterizes a smart creative according to Schmidt. While not every smart creative possesses 100 percent of these qualities, honing some or all will ensure your current and future marketability in the digital transformation arena.

Hands On

Smart creatives are technically and digitally savvy. They are doers, expert in manipulating the tools that will allow them to be most efficient. They don’t just design concepts, they build prototypes and applications. If they identify a problem, they don’t wait for IT to fix it. They come up with the answer themselves.

Data Realists

Smart creatives use analytics to their full potential. They are comfortable with data and can use it to make decisions. They also understand its fallacies and are wary of endless analysis. They allow data to inform, but they don’t let it take over.

Results Focused

Smart creatives see a direct line from technical expertise to product/service excellence to business success, and they understand the value of all three. They are competitive and willing to put in the extra time – inside and outside of “traditional” business hours. They take action not because they are prodded by a manager, but based on their own considerable initiative.


Smart creatives produce a stream of ideas that are genuinely new. Their perspectives are different than anyone else’s, and occasionally different from their own. They are never satisfied with the status quo – they’re always questioning current approaches and looking for problems to solve.

Open Books

Smart creatives freely collaborate and judge ideas and analyses on their own merits rather than provenance. They express themselves with flair and charisma, either one-to-one or one-to-many. They are confident and thorough and unafraid to offend others if it means pursuing the correct course.

The best thing about smart creatives, says Schmidt, is that they’re everywhere. They aren’t necessarily the graduates of the top universities or the employees who have been promoted to a certain level. If you can think independently, attack problems without waiting for permission, and work hard in the pursuit of excellence, you can be one too.