Friday, May 23, 2008

A Malc and Russ update

Malcolm Gladwell talked about "How to hire the right person" at the 2008 New Yorker conference. He talks what the NBA and NFL scouting "combines" tell us about hiring good teachers and lawyers.

Here's interesting column on "Gladwell's Brain" from The Washingtonian. Included is the now infamous "perverse and often baffling" contest:
The mischief peaked with what Gladwell refers to as “the contest.” He and another young science reporter, William Booth, chose a phrase and competed to see who could insert it in the newspaper faster. The contest culminated with the phrase “perverse and often baffling.”

Booth wrote a story on mollusks. “The copy desk took out ‘often,’ ” he says in the recording, “arguing, I think correctly, that mollusks were either baffling or they weren’t.”

Finally, with the clock ticking, Gladwell struck gold. He discovered that Washington is home to both the country’s highest number of gastroenterologists per capita as well as the highest fees for gastroenterology, flying in the face of supply-and-demand rules.

Baffling indeed, and possibly perverse—at least by the standard of Post editors. Gladwell won the contest.
But is that story true? Maybe, maybe not :) The article includes links to Malc telling the very entertaining story.

Finally, I recently was in a meeting where I said something about "the tyranny of vision statements" (I'm not a big fan), which reminded me of this take by Russell Ackoff. You might remember his and Quay Hays' visit to Fresno State a year ago.