Form or Function?

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Form or Function? How about Form and Function?

The eternal fight between form and function. Between show and effectiveness. Between being followed by a herd with questionable loyalty, and walking with a small group with unwavering conviction in your vision.

Here’s a fancy looking video by HBX, Harvard‘s online programs platform. Professor Christensen undoubtedly sounds like someone I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to interact with and learn from. But the fact that even the likes of Harvard need movie-like videos to showcase the capabilities of a brilliant mind in order to sell a course, is a reflection of the superficial and attention-deficit times we live in.

Another rather painful habit is the one followed by the likes of Business Insider quite often. Apart from some very interesting articles, they also tend to hype the hell out of some random topic, using a catchy title and snippet. You’re tempted to click on it, only to find some absolutely boring or obvious view or reason about the story behind the title.

I for one, now actively avoid any such catchy but vague sounding snippet or title.

And then there are posts like Seth Godin‘s. No images, which, as per recent social media strategy “gurus”, would be nothing short of criminal. Experts will tell you how a picture is worth a thousand words. How a video would be so much more impactful. And some might even ask you to throw in a quote or two. And not just any quotes, but quotes quoted by..You! (what works better than bragging anyway, right?)

And while it is nothing short of an honour, when someone quotes you; there are few things as ridiculous as quoting yourself. Or asking your friends and industry colleagues to quote you. But that still goes on. So even if some of you can’t stop asking people to quote you, at least refrain from quoting yourself. That’s like walking up to your polling booth during election time, and asking for an option to vote yourself Prime Minister or President.

Coming back to Seth’s posts. They don’t have any images, and at barely 2-4 paragraphs, are far crisper and always impactful. Compare that with some standard blog analytics tools that give a red alert when you haven’t typed in a “minimum 300 words”. His posts are pure gold. They don’t need the crutches of pictures, videos, fancy or titillating titles or quotes or anything else to support them. They simply urge you to reflect, to question, and to improve.

And that’s what is lacking in the world today. We are becoming increasingly about cheaper, attention-grabbing tactics; and lesser about quality, long-term effectiveness.

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Work to be Hired

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One of the early screening processes to make it to the defense forces, is that of physical fitness. It is one of the more fundamental requirements of the job. Of course, subsequently, those who make the cut are broken down and rebuilt to be stronger, both mentally and physically.

In the corporate battlefield, potential candidates are put through interview boot camps which are at best, spread over a few days. But are these processes measuring the fundamental requirements you need from the candidate? Skill, while ever-changing, can still be taught. But what are more long-term character traits you’d want your next hire to have?

Once you’ve identified those traits, what if you took the hiring process and turned it on its head?

What if you then shortlisted applications based on simple initial screening criteria, and on gut feel? And then, have them come and work with your team for a week or two, or more. At the end of the period, both parties can decide where to take things from there.

One of the bigger concerns might be the transition and uncertainty, especially for people already in jobs.

Compensation is the easy bit. Even an approximate pro-rata salary-type compensation given to the candidate if rejected, would be far cheaper than the cost of hiring a wrong candidate.

From the point of view of ‘interaction time’, interviews, case-studies and other hiring processes can only be so effective. In comparison, working on a live project, albeit factoring in necessary confidentiality, might be a better way to assess a candidate. To assess traits like integrity and mettle, among other important qualities, which go far beyond a quick and temporary display of skills at an interview. The little I’ve watched of the mentally disturbing Big Brother and Big Boss, it is evident what a short amount of time spent in the same reference (a common project, not an interview) can reveal.

These are times when many MBA students and even experienced professionals focus more on being interview-ready, rather than on cultivating a curious mind. And it is partly because of the illusion of limited time.

Instead of hiring people to work, having people work to be hired might be a better way to build a team that is more suited for one’s company in the medium-to-long term.

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