Sunday, March 18, 2007

Self Selection

I'm a bit late with this one but was interesting none the less, "The Power of the Marginal":

If it's corrupt enough, a test becomes an anti-test, filtering out the people it should select by making them to do things only the wrong people would do. Popularity in high school seems to be such a test. There are plenty of similar ones in the grownup world. For example, rising up through the hierarchy of the average big company demands an attention to politics few thoughtful people could spare. [3] Someone like Bill Gates can grow a company under him, but it's hard to imagine him having the patience to climb the corporate ladder at General Electric—or Microsoft, actually.

It's kind of strange when you think about it, because lord-of-the-flies schools and bureaucratic companies are both the default. There are probably a lot of people who go from one to the other and never realize the whole world doesn't work this way.

I think that's one reason big companies are so often blindsided by startups. People at big companies don't realize the extent to which they live in an environment that is one large, ongoing test for the wrong qualities.

If you're an outsider, your best chances for beating insiders are obviously in fields where corrupt tests select a lame elite. But there's a catch: if the tests are corrupt, your victory won't be recognized, at least in your lifetime.

He also contradicts the Bible:

Almost everyone makes the mistake of treating ideas as if they were indications of character rather than talent—as if having a stupid idea made you stupid. There's a huge weight of tradition advising us to play it safe. "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent," says the Old Testament (Proverbs 17:28).

And Yoda:

The word "try" is an especially valuable component. I disagree here with Yoda, who said there is no try. There is try. It implies there's no punishment if you fail. You're driven by curiosity instead of duty. That means the wind of procrastination will be in your favor: instead of avoiding this work, this will be what you do as a way of avoiding other work. And when you do it, you'll be in a better mood.

Also the entire movie file is available as are the others from that conference (Martin Fowler deconstructing Rails is good too) in mp4.
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