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Submitted by mkirk on


So, you're a manager wondering how best to do your job i.e. how to improve the performance of the organisation. You know (from Manager Tools and other places) that hiring and promoting is your most important job and then you discover this. It's absolutely credible (from Cornell University and peer-reviewed in the journal 'Physics and Society') and it is, IMHO, the ultimate Silver Bullet.

Essentially, to ensure the best performance of your organisation, you should simply wake up in the morning, promote someone at random, and then go do the other, less important stuff. That's it. No need for career development / matching competences / personal assessments / interviews / soul searching / tough decisions. Just do it at random. And if your Boss enquires Why?, you can simply refer her to Cornell University and await the plaudits.

Isn't the world an amazing place? 

Here's the link, go figure. (and good luck to anyone who actually tries this strategy ;-)


bffranklin's picture
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You may want to re-read this bit from the conclusion:

On the other hand we obtained the counterintuitive

result that the best strategies for improving, or at least for not diminishing,

the efficiency of an organization, when one ignores the actual mechanism of

competence transmission, are those of promoting an agent at random or of

randomly alternating the promotion of the best and the worst members. [emphasis added]

So the research paper finds that identifying the skills for success at the next level, when all you are given is skills for success at the current level, is random selection.  While I don't think this is a particularly good paper, it's for different reasons than the ones you are stating.  The paper amounts to window dressing on tautology.  I'd want to give it another read, but the paper is pretty close to begging the question -- they randomly assign competence, then ask the best method for selecting the independent variable.  Of course it's random; that's how you assigned it!