Friend Larry Lyon pointed me to a post entitled, Don't Hire Experience, Hire Learners. The gist of the post is a response to an article in the Australian Financial Review which suggests, “most employers say that if you have to choose between getting an MBA or getting two more years of experience, you’re much better off with the experience.” The post goes on to respond with a quote from the book Rework, which says, “Of course, requiring some baseline level of experience can be a good idea when hiring. ... There’s surprisingly little difference between a candidate with six months of experience and one with six years. The real difference comes from the individual’s dedication, personality, and intelligence.” The post concludes that demonstrated ability to learn - like hiring an MBA - is a better indicator of success than mere experience.
Not exactly. This reasoning is an example of a false dichotomy, missing the essence of what's really going on in terms of effects and causes (in that order!).
My recommendation in response to all of this? Hire learners, yes. Hire MBAs? This is a dubious decision at best, because they don't necessarily know how to learn; rather, they know very well how to play a very particular game. To paraphrase a highly recommended radio documentary from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: MBA - Mostly Bloody Awful (also, Mediocre But Arrogant, and Management By Accident).
Learning requires one to be comfortable with admitting what you don't know - MBA grads typically don't qualify. Learning requires having an open mind and not sticking to the "trite and true." Most people who have been in the work force for years in a BAH organization where they're supposed to shut up and do their job don't qualify.
Instead, hire the radical. Hire the iconoclast (I'm looking for work, by the way - I can actually help with these sorts of issues). Hire the person who dissents with virtuous subversion. Hire the curious. Hire the person who lives a culture of inquiry.But first, ensure that you are a leader who truly welcomes diverse voices that provide radical worldviews, and introduce virtuous subversion. Ensure that you encourage a culture of inquiry throughout your enterprise, and that you, yourself are truly a reflective practitioner. Be a learner among learners.
[Technorati tags: leadership | organizational learning | culture of inquiry]