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    Wednesday
    Feb292012

    Anticipated Regret and Chasing a Sure Thing

    Finally, the 24/7 Jeremy Lin is dying down somewhat. A combination of LeBron, Dwayne and the rest of the Miami Heat laying a bit of a smackdown and sending a message to Lin and the Knicks, along with the mid-season All Star break, have combined to (mercifully), let the #Linsanity fall off the radar in the last few days. It is hard to know how the rest of the season will play out for Lin; the Miami game showed opposing teams are now well aware of his game, his tendencies, and have adapted their strategies to counter the elements that Lin has brought to the Knicks in the last few weeks. Lin is a smart and talented player though, and most observers think that while he is unlikely to continue scoring 20 or 25 points a night, he should continue to develop into a quality starting point guard, hopefully filling a glaring hole in the Knicks lineup.The next sure thing

    But over 100 words in, this post isn't actually about Lin, at least not directly. As I spent some time this weekend reading many of the articles and posts about #Linsanity that I had bookmarked during the last two weeks, this piece from Wired, 'What Jeremy Lin Teaches Us About Talent' stuck out, not so much for the origniality of the take - that often we aren't very good at recognizing talent when it is right under our noses, but rather for one of the references in the piece, to a 2010 paper called 'The Loser's Curse: Overconfidence vs. Market Efficiency in the National Football League', by Cade Massey and Richard Thaler.

    The Massey/Thaler paper examines over two decades of National Football League draft results, compares player draft position to demonstrated performance once the drafted players enter the league, and eventually makes several interesting conclusions about the success in evaluation of potential players by NFL talent evaluators. Chief among these conclusions is that despite ridiculous amounts of easily discoverable demonstrated performance results, (video of draft candidate's college games), detailed and specific pre-draft assessment testing, and years of experience at their jobs, that NFL talent professionals are only slightly better at choosing between any two players than simply flipping a coin - higher drafted players outperform lower drafted players only 52% of the time.

    The paper goes on to recommend that based on analysis of the performance of players selected in the draft that 'trading down', e.g. swapping say a team's 1st round selection in the draft, for multiple lower round selections, perhaps for additional 2nd and 3rd round picks, is usually a better strategy than holding on to that high pick, particularly when, as the authors contend, the likelihood of superior outcomes produced by multiple lower round picks is quite high. Essentially, they argue, that NFL teams overvalue high draft picks, a condition only exacerbated by the fact that these high draft picks usually are well known players, and fan and media pressure for teams to select these known quantity 'sure thing' players is really high.

    Why do teams often hold on to these high picks, and irrationally chase these sure things? The paper offers the concept of 'anticipated regret', or the idea that missing out on a player, that they had a chance to select, only to see him succeed with another team, is just too painful for teams to stomach, and they feel they have to exercise draft rights on such a player, even when the data suggest that, over time, they'd probably be better off passing, and trading down to accumulate more lower picks.

    In the NFL and other sports, anticipated regret is all too real, since the actual performance of players not selected by a given team is all to available. Deciding not to select a highly touted player that turns out to be a star for another team, can often become an albatross, weighing a team down for years, (see Trail Blazers, Portland).

    Back in the real world though, anticipated regret does not play into corporate talent evaluation and recruiting all that much. Candidates that we pass on usually head off to parts unknown, and if we do know what becomes of them, we rarely have insight into performance details at whatever endeavor they pursue. We know how the person we did select worked out of course, but that extra bit of information, how the person(s) we passed on turned out, well we can only guess at that.

    Which is kind of too bad I think. Because I think we would all get better at evaluating talent if we could see the full picture, not just how the person we hired worked out, but how the ones we didn't hire ended up. Because if we keep missing, well then maybe we'd change our approach, maybe we'd be willing to trade down from time to time, instead of always chasing the sure thing.

     

    Tuesday
    Feb282012

    I do not think it means what you think it means

    Very random and kind of funny tweet that I spotted in my quest to maintain constant vigilance on all things related to the Talent Management systems space, this one from a random Twitter user in an unknown role at an undetermined company:

     

    Kind of funny, and I suppose not terribly unfair. Now I realize that our friend Sally here might not represent the majority of individuals at his or any organization that is considering or actively working on Talent Management technology projects, and I also realize that no matter how well planned, how perfectly aligned, and how well the value is communicated to the team that there are always going to be some detractors or nay-sayers in any big tech project. And it could be that for this organization, this opinion and reaction is in the decided minority and the folks driving the talent project would do well to push forward with their plans and not let this kind of thing slow them down.

    I don't really highlight this amusing tweet to make a case that everyone in an organization needs to be on board with big changes and major HR technology initiatives, because that simply is not possible. Why the tweet was interesting to me though is how it actually called out the specific terminology used by his organization's HR team - 'Talent Management System' as being almost laughable. And that I think might be a fair point.

    While the term might make perfect sense to vendors to describe what they are building and marketing, and resonate with an organization's business and HR leaders as what they need to focus on, I wonder for the average person, (like I am assuming the author of this tweet to be), the terminology at best means almost nothing, and at worst is a little insulting.

    I can imagine our friend Sally thinking, 'Wait a minute here. I am the talent. I am not at all sure that I want HR to install a big, new system to manage me.'

    I don't know anything about this specific project, but I do know this - if what you decide to call your project, system, initiative - whatever, repels and possibly insults the very people whose buy-in you need to make the entire thing work, well then you are probably in some trouble.

    What do you think? Is it time to re-think the phrase 'Talent Management Systems?'

    Have a better idea?

    Monday
    Feb272012

    Who Bricked the Electric Car?

    You may have caught the story last week about Tesla, the maker of extremely high-end electric vehicles, (EVs), and the accusation that if the $100K Tesla Roadster's battery pack was allowed to drain all the way to zero, (basically to go completely dead), that the car could not be simply re-charged in the normal fashion, and that in fact the entire battery pack would have to be removed and replaced, (at $40K).

    This phenomenon, and already some are disputing how much of a real problem it presents, has been termed 'bricking', as in without the ability to operate the $100K Tesla has been effectively turned into a brick. A stylish one no doubt, but a brick nonetheless.  And having your $100K car essentially rendered useless without dropping another 40 large for the repair would have to classify as a bad day, and if indeed this is even a remote possibility, one would hope Tesla has taken adequate precautions and will look to improve the technology such that this kind of bricking either can't happen or really almost would never happen.

    But for now, it appears like at least the possibility for bricking exists, according to a follow-up piece in Engadget, the Tesla company (sort-of) acknowledged that a full battery drain would indeed 'brick' the car and issued the following statement:

    All automobiles require some level of owner care. For example, combustion vehicles require regular oil changes or the engine will be destroyed. Electric vehicles should be plugged in and charging when not in use for maximum performance. All batteries are subject to damage if the charge is kept at zero for long periods of time. However, Tesla avoids this problem in virtually all instances with numerous counter-measures. Tesla batteries can remain unplugged for weeks (or even months), without reaching zero state of charge. Owners of Roadster 2.0 and all subsequent Tesla products can request that their vehicle alert Tesla if SOC falls to a low level. All Tesla vehicles emit various visual and audible warnings if the battery pack falls below 5 percent SOC. Tesla provides extensive maintenance recommendations as part of the customer experience.

    Essentially Tesla is saying, 'Look, we sold you an incredible piece of technology, the most fabulous EV on the market. All you really need to do on your side is to not leave the car idle for months on end and forget to charge it up. And we will even offer to call you up to remind you to run out to the garage and plug in the thing in you forget. For months. Seem reasonable?'

    Probably pretty reasonable.  Tesla, like just about any other make of cars, gadgets, games, or even business systems at some stage arrives at the end point of their ability and responsibility to ensure that the consumer will have a great experience with their purchase, and won't actually do something really dumb with their new shiny object after they take it home.

    Over on Talented Apps last week, Meg Bear hit upon this point when she re-stated Meg's Law for Talent Management software development -

    It is the intention of our team to build excellent, usable software to optimize a well thought out talent strategy.  BUT if you suck, there is nothing we can do in software, to fix that for you. 

    And I am pretty sure Meg's Law could apply to Tesla as well.  I am sure it is their intention to build the best EV in the world, but if you suck, and you forget that an EV actually needs to be plugged in once in a while, we can't fix that for you. Or rather we can, but it will cost you $40K.

    Sadly, the organizations that Meg is referring to, the ones with the terrible talent strategy, can't get off that easy.

    Friday
    Feb242012

    Off Topic - This Is My Home

    Do you ever get a little tired of reading about Human Resources, workplace concerns, technology, or Jeff Van Gundy?

    Me too. 

    So for a Friday let's go off topic. This is the most interesting thing I think I read or saw all week. A short film by filmmaker Marc Cerosimo titled 'This Is My Home', about a man who has created an interesting and unusual home in the middle of Manhattan. A place filled with antiques, treasures, and collectibles but also one that is much different than what is expected.

    A kind of vintage shop where anyone is welcome to explore, but nothing is for sale. Unless...

    Check out the film, (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through), it is about 6 minutes long and I think you can spare the time on a Friday.

    This Is My Home from Mark on Vimeo.

     

    So what did you think?

    Have a Great Weekend!

     

    Thursday
    Feb232012

    PowerPoint for the iPad? Well that's no fun.

    Lots of chatter in the tech news and blogosphere this week about the possible launch of an iPad version of Microsoft Office.  First the news of the Office for iPad was broken by The Daily, denied, (kind of), by Microsoft, examined in more detail by ZDNet, then reconfirmed on Twitter by a staff member at The Daily. And I am sure there were lots of other takes on the potential release of Office for the iPad, most of which making it seem like it is not a question of if Microsoft will release the iPad version of Office, but rather when the apps will be released.Source - The Daily

    So based on the evidence, and the sort of non-denial denial from Microsoft, let's assume that indeed in the 'coming weeks' there will be a release of MS Office for the iPad. Most of the accounts about this possible new Office version herald this development as a positive one, both for Microsoft, essentially absent to this point in the rapid rise of the tablet ecosystem, and also for the millions of iPad users that now can become 'more productive' now that the ubiquitous Office suite will have a native iPad version.

    But for me, I have to admit I don't feel all that excited about having Excel, Word, or PowerPoint on the iPad. Even assuming that the iPad versions of these workplace stalwarts manage to leverage the best capabilities and usability features that the iPad offers, you are still crunching spreadsheets, writing (boring) documents, and futzing around with another PowerPoint. You know, working. And work, sadly, is often not much fun. And perhaps through no fault of their own, Excel and PowerPoint take a lot of reflected shrapnel for that if you get my meaning.

    People love their iPads because they are fun, (assuming you can mentally set aside how they are actually manufactured, but that is another story), they provide an amazing user experience, and mostly what you do with them either isn't work, or doesn't feel like work. It just seems cool, hip, easy. Not words we often associate with work. Especially when work takes the form of spreadsheets and slide decks.

    So when MS Office for the iPad comes out will I rush to load it up? Probably not. But I imagine I will eventually succumb, as the allure and utility of being able to tweak that presentation file on the iPad when sitting in the airport will prove too tempting and seem too necessary. It's work right? Need to get 'er done whenever and wherever.

    I just hope I won't have to drop Angry Birds to make room for Excel. Because that would really stink.