Malcolm Gladwell: Reinventing Invention

Malcolm Gladwell on the challenge of hiring in the modern world. From “Stories from the Near Future,” the 2008 New Yorker Conference.   

Interesting discussion, classic Gladwell . . .


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Malcolm Gladwell
New Yorker, May 12, 2008

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  1. Bund Fox commented on May 21

    Barry, thank you very much for this post. I found this very thought provoking and is something that I probably would not have seen if it were not for your blog. All the best.

  2. Dave commented on May 21

    Interesting, but I think the results of two of his examples are debatable.

    First, he wants to broaden the pool of potential teachers to increase teaching quality. But, in my opinion, the best way to increase teaching quality is to raise the pay of teachers. Right now, there are already too many applicants for teaching positions at the current low wages. The Economist had an article about this recently:

    “Singapore screens candidates with a fine mesh before teacher training and accepts only the number for which there are places. Once in, candidates are employed by the education ministry and more or less guaranteed a job. Finland also limits the supply of teacher-training places to demand. In both countries, teaching is a high-status profession (because it is fiercely competitive) and there are generous funds for each trainee teacher (because there are few of them).

    South Korea shows how the two systems produce different results. Its primary-school teachers have to pass a four-year undergraduate degree from one of only a dozen universities. Getting in requires top grades; places are rationed to match vacancies. In contrast, secondary-school teachers can get a diploma from any one of 350 colleges, with laxer selection criteria. This has produced an enormous glut of newly qualified secondary-school teachers—11 for each job at last count. As a result, secondary-school teaching is the lower status job in South Korea; everyone wants to be a primary-school teacher. The lesson seems to be that teacher training needs to be hard to get into, not easy.”

    Second, he gives an example of the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action program. A study found that despite lower test score and GPA standards, these graduates did just as well professionally as the other students. This conclusion is likely flawed though. I just read recently (again in the Economist: that many minorities let into top law schools under lax affirmative action admission standards dropped out. By studying its graduates, the University of Michigan Law School’s study likely suffered from a survivorship bias.

    To quote the above Economist article:
    “A study by Richard Sander of the University of California, Los Angeles, found that when the bar is lowered for black applicants to law school, they are admitted to institutions where they cannot cope. Many who drop out of top-tier colleges might have thrived at slightly less competitive ones. Mr Sander calculated that the net effect of pro-black preferences was actually to reduce the number of blacks who passed the bar exam. That is, racial preferences for black law students result in fewer black lawyers.”

  3. bdg123 commented on May 21

    Any data is open to manipulation. We don’t really see the data or how it was obtained. But, Malcom does bring up a good point. We are slaves to lunacy in the employment arena. Most typically HR pinheads which are the equivalent to talent scouts.

    Nearly any job other than those requiring professional certification, ie Doctor, engineer, lawyer, etc, can be done by most anyone. And, measuring proficiency by a test score is absolutely ridiculous. But, we need to start somewhere. Emotional intelligence, social intelligence, creativity and patience are likely more important for a k-12 teacher than if they have an IQ of 157. Regardless of what they are teaching.

    Btw, the above inference to blacks not being smart enough is the same old bullshit that has been rehashed time and again. I realize the poster is simply regurgitating information but it is equally flawed. Give any child access to a stable home life, a pattern of creative learning and encouragement to explore from childhood and economic opportunity and they will equally succeed ….. or not…… regardless of race. These insinuations by elitist dipshits really burns me up.

  4. Dave commented on May 22

    In the text I quoted, there is no such inference about blacks. The inference is about students who were allowed lowered admissions standards. I would assume that if admissions standards were lowered for whites, then those whites who gained admissions via the lowered standards would also be less likely to graduate.

    I believe you are correct in assuming that if all children were given stable environments and resources that all children, regardless of race, would have an equal chance at success, but that is unrelated to the point made in my previous post.

  5. Gegner commented on May 22

    You’d think there’d be more commentary on such an ‘elemental’ topic…

    I tend to concur with Malcolm’s analysis, that ‘standardized’ testing does not always yield the ‘expected’ results.

    In the end it’s all about passion. I tend to think that those who desire to succeed in a given field of endeavor are ‘passionate’ about it.

    This is what needs to be measured.

    ‘Proficiency’ is secondary.

    I ‘second’ the first poster’s thanks, If not for this post, I’d never have viewed this.

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