Googles new hiring algorithms & the Wisdom of Crowds

The inevitable decision making problems of a lack of diversity.

wisdomofcrowds.jpgFrom the NY Times: Google's Answer to Filling Jobs: New Algorithm

Google has always wanted to hire people with straight-A report cards and double 800s on their SATs. Now, like an Ivy League school, it is starting to look for more well-rounded candidates, like those who have published books or started their own clubs.

Google is rightly known for hiring smart people. But there's a strong argument that the lack of diversity in decision making will lead to less 'smart' decisions than a more diverse group.

From The Wisdom of Crowds

If four basic conditions are met, a crowd's "collective intelligence" will produce better outcomes than a small group of experts, Surowiecki says, even if members of the crowd don't know all the facts or choose, individually, to act irrationally. "Wise crowds" need

  1. diversity of opinion
  2. independence of members from one another
  3. decentralization; and
  4. a good method for aggregating opinions.

The diversity brings in different information; independence keeps people from being swayed by a single opinion leader; people's errors balance each other out; and including all opinions guarantees that the results are "smarter" than if a single expert had been in charge.

It seems that adding a few dunces to your group can actually impove the quality of decisions that come out of it. That means that there's still hope for most of us.

Google might understand this in the future too. We'll have to wait and see if there's a sea change and they take the chance to hire outside of Stanford and a few token Harvard grads.