Funny how things seem to happen in threes sometimes
- I read this blog entry by Seth Godin last night, it summed up lots of things I had been thinking about.
- That was after I spoke at American University, at their Social Networking and Business class. It went well - we talked about (among many other things) Seth's blog, interviewing, knowledge (smarts, intelligence).
- And that was after I wrote this about interviewing.
and then last night, Nicole Melander (the professor of the class) sent me a link pointing to a trailer for a movie a friend of hers is making about (sad state of) education in the US. And they are all related - around the theme of:
How to get ahead and be successful.
In the AskTom interview question referenced above, I basically said "I don't have a checklist of factoids one needs to have remembered when interviewing". Rather, I'd like to see them be "smart", conversant, generally intelligent, engaging, sharp - creative. If they can dryly regurgitate factoids about the database, a programming language, a software package - whatever, not interesting. If they are conversant and are creative, the conversation will flow and their ideas and thoughts will impress (or not, that's the point).
I might fail some peoples interview (the ones that want to have factoids spit back at them) - simply because I haven't remembered the factoid they thought was most important. Never mind that I know how to find that factoid out (really fast). I believe people should understand how things work - and then be able to derive from that lots of specific solutions, or at least be able to hypothesize how something will work - and then be able to construct a simple test (benchmark) to test that idea out.
When I was talking to Nicole's class - I basically said the same thing, they had questions about the interview process and how much the resume counted, how much the interview counted. My response was that the resume is needed to get past the check list people, the human resources recruiter who is not knowledgeable in the field they are recruiting for - but rather has a checklist to satisfy. After that, the resume was a piece of paper the interviewer would scan before the interview to generate a list of talking points. After that, the resume was just a piece of paper - it was all about the interview and being "sharp".
And that was exactly the crux of Seth's blog:
I don't know about you, but when I hire someone, or go to the doctor or the architect or an engineer, I could care less about how good they are at memorizing or looking up facts. I want them to be great at synthesizing ideas, the faster and more insightfully, the better
I agreed with Seth that tools like Wikipedia should not only be permitted in schooling, they should be encouraged. But, as a good friend wrote me while talking about this:
The only thing I can think of that MIGHT be the reason - and I'm not defending the reason ... just trying to understand the ban, per se - is that people automatically look at encyclopedias as facts. Wikipedia ... cut and paste ... and presto ... your term paper's done the teachers probably got tired of it.
But that goes back to what Seth and I were saying/thinking - Seth's blog said it nice and succinctly:
I want them to be great at synthesizing ideas, the faster and more insightfully, the better
Wikipedia is just a single tool, one of thousands. The students should be taught to use as many tools as possible, simultaneously. They should not be prevented from using any. They should be challenged to prove that what they 'synthesize' is true - via attribution in their write up, as well as good old fashioned fact checking.
When I'm writing something technical - I use many 'tools' to get it right. I take the ideas, concepts, facts - from many sources and put them all together in a different way (add value). And check the facts
That is what it is all about