Years ago I asked a client, a senior partner at Goldman Sachs, where the prestigious investment bank found its best candidates. Expecting to hear Harvard Business School as the answer, I was surprised to learn his preference was for any athlete who made it to the Olympics. “Given a choice I’ll take an Olympic athlete over anyone,” he said.
This answer becomes obvious as soon as you consider it. If someone can muster the focus, harness the discipline, and accept the sacrifices necessary to reach that goal, chances are good that he or she can pull off anything you might have in mind.
Unfortunately, we don’t all come across that many Olympic athletes in our hiring process. But just this week, re-watching a video of Randy Nelson, Pixar University’s Dean, I heard an idea I like just as much. Nelson’s thought is this. If you want to hire someone to do something truly innovative, chances are you won’t find it on a resume.
Why? Because if the job you have in mind really is innovative, it hasn’t been done. So you need to look for a parallel predictor of success. And, according to Nelson, what you’re looking for is mastery. It can be mastery in anything: music, mountain climbing, even origami, I suppose. Mastery implies you’re dealing with a candidate who has set his or her mind not simply to accomplish something, but also to get to the top. In fact Nelson believes that no one will achieve mastery in the job if they haven’t achieved it somewhere else.
I’ve already started asking the question, “Can you tell me something you’ve mastered in your life?” I haven’t heard a great answer yet. Then again, neither have I offered anyone the job. What’s the best question you ask candidates? Or perhaps more importantly, if you’re the candidate, what’s your answer?
Want to get that deck finished, show up your co-workers, impress your boss with your productivity? Try one of the many increasingly popular neuoroenhancers. You’ll have the power to avoid sleep, keep your mind clear, and stay focused on the task at hand. Perfect if you’re among the “anxious employees in an efficient-obsessed, Blackberry-equipped office culture.”
In this week’s New Yorker, Margaret Talbot delivers a thorough and insightful report on why Adderall, Ritalin and other other cognitive enhancing drugs — typically prescribed for children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder – have become the rage with college students and young over-achieving professionals. Short conclusion: they help you get more done.
But while this might be a good idea for a media planner or an account guy (warning: watch out for cardiac problems and bitter office rivals who’ll charge you with cheating) it’s a bad idea for creative people.
Turns out the last thing creative writers, or artists, or musicians want to do is focus. We want just the opposite. “There is some evidence that suggests that individuals who are better able to focus on one thing and filter out distractions tend to be less creative,” writes Talbot. And while this is her only mention about the disadvantages of focusing (Adderall) when it comes to creativity, you can gather more by reading Jonathan Lehrer’s preview of Alison Gopnik’s The Philosophical Baby in this past Sunday’s Boston Globe.
Gopnik and other neuroscientists have been advancing our understanding of a baby’s brain, revealing that newborns are far more conscious than we ever realized. Better yet, their little minds create more connections between disparate regions of the cortex – the center of sensation and higher thought – than most adults can ever hope for.
In short, they got some crazy stuff going on in there. And guess what? By popping Adderall, we eliminate whatever chances we have left of getting some of that crazy stuff going on in our cortex. Sure you may finish that deck or organize those folders on your desktop so their nice and tidy, but your imagination might start slow dancing, carefully predetermining every next step. Not good. For as Lehrer reminds us, if you want to be creative, “the mind performs best when we don’t try and control it.”
What’ll your approach be? Big pharma? Or little baby?
Yesterday I came across a couple of good examples of people using social media instead of talking about social media. One was Zack’s unfortunate, unexpected sex change. In this video series (for a product that will reveal itself over the next week or so) poor Zack wakes up to find his manhood has disappeared and he’s… well we’re not quite sure. This slightly absurd story presented with great writing, solid casting, and realistic performances captures your imagination right from the opening shot.
Inevitably it’s the kind of work that will generate buzz, get passed around by consumers, and build a following that will, ideally, be to the brand’s advantage. I won’t tell you the agency or the creator so as not to spoil the fun, but it’s a reminder that social media aren’t simply the platforms where we put content but rather the content itself.
The second idea to excite me was Current TV’s RFP for an agency of record. Unlike the typical RFP, Current TV released this one over Twitter. In the spirit of social media transparency, it went so far as to ask agencies to submit their responses publicly, for the world to see. And while Current TV’s Brand VP Jordan Kretchmer hedged his bets by determining a short list prior to opening up the opportunity, it’s still an experiment that does something with the medium, rather than another dissertation about the medium.
Sure someone will label both of these gimmicks, or find some way to argue they’re not true social media ideas. Yet they both do what all social media ideas need to do: get attention, be remembered, inspire participation, create community. What’s the best stuff you’ve seen recently? <a href=”http://technorati.com/claim/cavg7qh3em” rel=”me”>Technorati Profile</a>
Let’s assume for a moment that MySpace is the bar, Facebook is a backyard barbeque, LinkedIn is the office, and Twitter is the café. If you’re like most of the people I know, you use at least two of these networks, often for different reasons. You hang with friends in one place, clients or colleagues in another. Just like in real life.
So what happens when you suddenly have business associates who want to join you for a permanent drink or invite themselves to the barbeque? Unlike the cookout, Facebook doesn’t end when the sun goes down. So do you accept them? Is it possible to refuse a request without getting someone upset or even jeopardizing a business relationship?
Let’s make it even more challenging. The company you work for wants you to use your social network to help call attention to its products and services, or perhaps those of its clients. Now what do you do? It’s one thing if you’re in the business of social media, and you’re trying to promote your own personal brand and expertise.
But you may have a network of friends and contacts with whom you connect on a purely personal level. It’s possible that neither you nor they want to pollute that relationship with the equivalent of advertising.
Or does it matter? Have all the lines blurred?
Inside my company, we encourage people to learn and master social media. We offer them the opportunity to do so on behalf of clients. But we never impose on anyone and respect an individual’s preference to keep his or her personal social networks exactly that, personal. Yet at the same time, when a team launches a social media program or puts up a new fan page on behalf of a client, they inevitably send out the agency-all email asking everyone in the company to get with the program and share it with friends.
So here are some questions. If you’re the employee, how do you feel about being asked to use your social networks for business purposes? Is it an imposition? Or do you consider your digital presence an asset that makes you more valuable in your job?
If you’re an employer, do you have a policy or is it a non-issue? Would you go so far as to consider the digital footprint of a prospective employee when interviewing job candidates? If you’re a marketer or ad agency, is a college graduate with 2000 followers on Twitter more interesting to you than one with 10 followers?
My prediction is that in the future, companies of all kinds will realize that their employees, who have always been their greatest asset, are even more valuable if they have the ability to help attract and mobilize customers and prospects. And it’s likely that social media — from Facebook to LinkedIn to Twitter to whatever comes next — is how they’ll do it.
What do you think?
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