Why I Decided to Rethink Hiring Smart People

HBR Blog Network • 17 October 2012

The downside of smart. Strategy consultant Roger Martin describes how he came to the conclusion that smarter isn't necessarily better when hiring personnel. The problem? Very smart people are often "brittle": "When something goes wrong, rather than reflect on what they might have done to contribute to the error, they look entirely outside themselves for the causes and blame outside forces . . . rather than learn from error, they doom themselves to repeat them." His conclusion? Too much of a good thing is too much.

This is his atonement for having once lived by the mantra "Dumb is forever." The best thing about the article, however, is the 1991 article that inspired it—"Teaching Smart People How to Learn" by Chris Argyris. (It's behind a Harvard Business Review registration hurdle but you can also find it here.) It explains a lot about why organizational change is especially hard in enterprises where there are lots of smart people. Libraries? Universities? (Michalko)

Google Throws Open the Doors to Its Top-Secret Data Center

Wired • 17 October 2012

Innovation to the max. Google is widely known for its sophisticated algorithms and pioneering data mining techniques, but journalist Steven Levy offers a peek into Google's lesser-known innovations in server and data center design, energy savings and data security. This is a great example of a company that takes nothing for granted.

Wow. Gobsmacking scale. Google data centers may be a 1.2 against a perfect 1.0 power usage effectiveness (PUE) score but most aren't even close. If you haven't read The New York Times two-part series on The Cloud Factories: "Power, Pollution and the Internet," do it now. (Michalko)

Mixed Results

Hub Magazine • September-October 2012

All-in-one. Retailing expert Bill Bishop emphasizes the importance of cross-channel message alignment: "While the technical challenges of aligning information across channels are specific to each platform, it was probably a mistake for us to get caught up in the alphabet soup of ecommerce, s-commerce, m-commerce, etc. From the consumers' point-of-view, it's all just shopping, no matter which technology they're using." Check out these tips for communicating effectively in a multichannel landscape.

A little imagination and this article is an apt analogy with library electronic information offerings and the long-established physical place and collections. (Michalko)

Bigger, Better Google Ngrams: Brace Yourself for the Power of Grammar

The Atlantic • 18 October 2012

For linguistics lovers. Google's Ngram Viewer—an online tool aimed at tracing the history of word usage—has just gotten better. The text corpus has been expanded, eight languages are represented, the faulty metadata has been tweaked for accuracy, and an additional tagging project now links each word to its grammatical use—for instance, users can identify when the word impact morphed from a noun to an overused verb. Check out this "showcase for some cutting-edge work in converting mountains of 'noisy' text into orderly streams of language data."

A fascinating time sink when it first was made available to all of us dabblers. This improved version invites a new round of curious frittering. (Michalko)

People of the Bookshelf

The Global Mail • 11 October 2012

Book it. Novelist Geraldine Brooks reveals her own personal book-shelving quirks. Like most casual cataloguers, she starts with the alphabet but then she factors in books' social compatibility: How do they feel about their spine-by-spine positioning? Would they enjoy being seated together at a dinner party? Check out Brooks' notions about literary matchmaking, conflict resolution and "punishment shelves."

Clever or precious? How you come out on that would determine where you'd sit at any dinner party I organize. (Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, national authority files currently do not include authors who only write journal articles, or researchers who don't publish but do what instead?

Get the answer.