Finding Out What Works at Google

June 25, 2013 by Wally Bock

Imagine the scientists of the Enlightenment. Think of Joseph Priestly doing experiments in his kitchen laboratory to determine the nature of air. Imagine James Hutton poring over the geological records to determine the age of the Earth or Ben Franklin out in the lightening storm with his kite.

According to Steven Johnson what they were doing was “the extensive application of the scientific method to problems that had previously been shrouded in darkness.” Lazlo Bock (no relation) is doing something similar at Google.

Adam Bryant outlined it in his New York Times piece, “In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such a Big Deal.” The title is a bit misleading because the piece is less about recruiting or big data, than it is about the way Bock and Google approach HR functions.

“We’ve done some interesting things to figure out how many job candidates we should be interviewing for each position, who are better interviewers than others and what kind of attributes tend to predict success at Google. On the leadership side, we’re looking at what makes people successful leaders and how can we cultivate that.”

This is the scientific method in its broadest and best sense. You have a question, a hypothesis, or a hunch. So you test it to find out if you’re right. The Times article mentions several, including the following.

Question: What kind of interviews work best? Answer: Structured behavioral interviews.

Hypothesis: Academic performance and test scores don’t do a good job of predicting job performance at Google. Answer: “G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless.”

Hunch: High octane brainteasers help you hire really smart people. Study result: They’re a complete waste of time. Google doesn’t do them anymore.

What you see here is not a specific tool or sophisticated analysis technique. It’s a way of thinking about issues and finding your way to the facts.  Think of it as Enlightenment for HR,

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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