Best, of course, was the drummer famously replaced by Ringo Starr in August 1962, just weeks before the band recorded “Love Me Do,” exploded upon popular culture and began its climb to the toppermost of the poppermost.
In the 50-plus years since that fateful personnel move, many close to the group have said the decision to boot Best maybe wasn’t as much about Starr being the better technical drummer as it was about Ringo being “the better Beatle.”
In other words, Starr had the type of personality, sense of humor, interests and values that better meshed with the rest of the boys in the band, and helped give the group a certain indefinable chemistry. Ringo, you could say, was the better cultural fit for the Beatles.
The term “cultural fit” didn’t really exist in 1962, in the workplace or anywhere else. But, over time, employers everywhere have certainly cottoned on to the idea that it takes more than just technical proficiency to truly excel in a particular organization or outfit.
The notion first gained a toehold in the corporate world in the 1980s, Lauren Rivera recently wrote in a New York Times opinion piece, in which she says the “cultural fit” concept has sort of run amok in the three decades since.
“In many organizations, fit has gone rogue,” noted Rivera, an associate professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
When done right, taking cultural fit into consideration can greatly boost productivity and profitability, she said. The problem today, is that “cultural fit has morphed into a far more nebulous and potentially dangerous concept.”
The effort to determine cultural fit has moved from “systemic analysis of who will thrive in a given workplace to snap judgments by managers about who they’d rather hang out with,” she says. “In the process, fit has become a catchall used to justify hiring people who are similar to decision makers and rejecting people who are not.”
Rivera should know a thing or two about this issue, having once spent nine months researching recruiting and hiring practices at a handful of top U.S. investment banks, management consultancies and law firms, conducting interviews with 120 decision makers at the aforementioned organizations.
She found that interviewers commonly relied on the sense of empathy they felt with job candidates in order to judge potential fit for the firm. While discovering shared experiences helped those doing the hiring form bonds with applicants, many decision makers were “primarily interested in new hires whose hobbies, hometowns and biographies matched their own,” she recounted in the Times.
Conversely, candidates’ backgrounds, personal interests and even sports allegiances could occasionally work against them. For instance, Rivera recalled attending a hiring committee meeting at one firm, where she witnessed a partner and “avid Red Sox fan” advocate the rejection of an applicant and self-avowed Yankees supporter “on the grounds of misfit.”
Even putting such extreme examples aside, Rivera concludes that hiring too many employees who reflect those already in the organization is a dangerous idea, for a lot of reasons.
“Some may wonder, ‘Don’t similar people work better together?’ Yes and no. For jobs involving complex decisions and creativity, more diverse teams outperform less diverse ones,” according to Rivera.
“Too much similarity can lead to teams that are overconfident, ignore vital information and make poor (or even unethical) decisions.”