Picking and choosing

beetsHard work can get you a professorship or a Tesla. But you need hard work and luck to get a Nobel prize or a Gulfstream.

When picking people for school admission, casting, and most other forced selection processes – there’re few selectors with successful track records of finely sorting from the pool of people who’re “good enough.” After pulling the trigger, it’s likely that whoever the selectors ultimately choose won’t be better than people picked randomly from the final small pool of candidates

We’re eager to believe the final selection process is the best way, both as the pickers and the picked. But false metrics combined with plenty of posturing leads to lots of drama. There’re  tradeoffs because choosing one person means you’re not choosing someone else. Optimizing a choice on one factor will mean sub-optimizing other factors.

What would happen if we spent more time on carefully assembling the pool of “good enough” and then randomly picking the final 5%? And of course, putting in the time to make sure that the assortment of people mesh well together.

This leads to the question of what would happen if casting directors and football scouts didn’t agonize about their final choice but instead spent that time and effort widening the pool to get the right group to randomly choose from instead?

It’s difficult for the picked, for the pickers and for institutions to admit, but if you don’t have proof that picking actually works, then let’s accept it and agree that luck is a factor.