Funding students with equity rather than debt is appealing. But it is not a cure-all

21. August 2015

Date: 20-08-2015
Source: The Economist: Free exchange
Subject: Graduate stock

DEBATES over how to fund higher education never lie dormant for long. In Britain, recently, there have been reforms about twice a decade; the last one, which hiked tuition fees, all but killed off the Liberal Democrats, members of the previous coalition government. In America, concerns abound over soaring costs and towering student debts. As a result, presidential candidates have been weighing in with plans to overhaul the system.

Why should the state support students in the first place? One argument is that society benefits from educated citizens, who pay more taxes, generate more jobs and help to advance human knowledge. Typically, such social gains justify subsidies. But the private returns to many degrees are juicy enough to encourage would-be students without a subsidy. The New York Fed reckons that a bachelor’s degree provides a 15% return on investment.

A better argument is that a purely private market for funding college would probably struggle. Despite the rosy averages, not all graduates succeed, so borrowing to pay for college is a gamble. Students do not know what job opportunities they will have later on; lenders must guess whether a 20-year-old will become a banker or a busker. Asset-poor youngsters cannot post collateral to compensate lenders for the risk. Unable to raise cash, poor students would be locked out of education without state support. Read the rest of this entry »


How to Get a Job at Google

23. February 2014

Date: 23-02-2014
Source: Thomas L. Friedman

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — LAST June, in an interview with Adam Bryant of The Times, Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google — i.e., the guy in charge of hiring for one of the world’s most successful companies — noted that Google had determined that “G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. … We found that they don’t predict anything.” He also noted that the “proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time” — now as high as 14 percent on some teams. At a time when many people are asking, “How’s my kid gonna get a job?” I thought it would be useful to visit Google and hear how Bock would answer.

Don’t get him wrong, Bock begins, Good grades certainly don’t hurt.” Many jobs at Google require math, computing and coding skills, so if your good grades truly reflect skills in those areas that you can apply, it would be an advantage. But Google has its eyes on much more.

“There are five hiring attributes we have across the company,” explained Bock. “If it’s a technical role, we assess your coding ability, and half the roles in the company are technical roles. For every job, though, the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information. We assess that using structured behavioral interviews that we validate to make sure they’re predictive.”

The second, he added, “is leadership — in particular emergent leadership as opposed to traditional leadership. Traditional leadership is, were you president of the chess club? Were you vice president of sales? How quickly did you get there? We don’t care. What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else? Because what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.”

What else? Humility and ownership. “It’s feeling the sense of responsibility, the sense of ownership, to step in,” he said, to try to solve any problem — and the humility to step back and embrace the better ideas of others. “Your end goal,” explained Bock, “is what can we do together to problem-solve. I’ve contributed my piece, and then I step back.”

And it is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute, says Bock, it’s “intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn.” It is why research shows that many graduates from hotshot business schools plateau. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure,” said Bock.

The least important attribute they look for is “expertise.” Said Bock: “If you take somebody who has high cognitive ability, is innately curious, willing to learn and has emergent leadership skills, and you hire them as an H.R. person or finance person, and they have no content knowledge, and you compare them with someone who’s been doing just one thing and is a world expert, the expert will go: ‘I’ve seen this 100 times before; here’s what you do.’ ” Most of the time the nonexpert will come up with the same answer, added Bock, “because most of the time it’s not that hard.” Sure, once in a while they will mess it up, he said, but once in a while they’ll also come up with an answer that is totally new. And there is huge value in that.

To sum up Bock’s approach to hiring: Talent can come in so many different forms and be built in so many nontraditional ways today, hiring officers have to be alive to every one — besides brand-name colleges. Because “when you look at people who don’t go to school and make their way in the world, those are exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people.”
Too many colleges, he added, “don’t deliver on what they promise. You generate a ton of debt, you don’t learn the most useful things for your life. It’s [just] an extended adolescence.”

Google attracts so much talent it can afford to look beyond traditional metrics, like G.P.A. For most young people, though, going to college and doing well is still the best way to master the tools needed for many careers. But Bock is saying something important to them, too: Beware. Your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.


If You’ve Got the Skills, She’s Got the Job

19. November 2012

Date: 18-11-2012
Source: THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

TRACI TAPANI is not your usual C.E.O. For the last 19 years, she and her sister have been co-presidents of Wyoming Machine, a sheet metal company they inherited from their father in Stacy, Minn. I met Tapani at a meeting convened by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to discuss one of its biggest challenges today: finding the skilled workers that employers need to run local businesses. I’ll let Tapani take it from here:

“About 2009,” she explained, “when the economy was collapsing and there was a lot of unemployment, we were working with a company that got a contract to armor Humvees,” so her 55-person company “had to hire a lot of people. I was in the market looking for 10 welders. I had lots and lots of applicants, but they did not have enough skill to meet the standard for armoring Humvees. Many years ago, people learned to weld in a high school shop class or in a family business or farm, and they came up through the ranks and capped out at a certain skill level. They did not know the science behind welding,” so could not meet the new standards of the U.S. military and aerospace industry. Read the rest of this entry »


India’s Innovation Stimulus

6. November 2011

Date: 06-11-2011

Source: THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, NYT

THE world hit seven billion people last week, and I think I met half of them on the road from New Delhi to Agra here in India. They were on foot, on bicycle, on motor scooters. They were in pickups, dented cars and crammed into motorized rickshaws. They were dodging monkeys and camels and cows. Somehow, though, without benefit of police or stoplights, this flow of humanity that is modern India impossibly went about its business. But just when your mind tells you that this crush of people will surely overwhelm all efforts to lift the mass of India out of poverty, you start to notice a pattern: Every few miles there’s a cellphone tower and a fresh-looking building poking out of the controlled chaos. And the sign out front invariably says “school” — engineering school, biotechnology school, English-language school, business school, computer school or private elementary school.

India is still the only country I know where you can find a billboard advertising “physics degrees.”

All these schools, plus 600 million cellphones, plus 1.2 billion people, half of whom are under 25, are India’s hope — because only by leveraging technology and brains can India deliver a truly better life for its masses. There are a million reasons why it won’t happen, but there is one big reason it might. The predicted really is happening: India’s young techies are moving from running the back rooms of Western companies, who outsourced work here, to inventing the front rooms of Indian companies, which are offering creative, low-cost solutions for India’s problems. The late C.K. Prahalad called it “Gandhian innovation,” and I encountered many examples around New Delhi. Read the rest of this entry »


One country, two revolutions

24. October 2011

Tom Friedman, NYT. 23-10.

The latest phase in the I.T. revolution is being driven by the convergence of social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Groupon, Zynga — with the proliferation of cheap wireless connectivity and Web-enabled smartphones and “the cloud” — those enormous server farms that hold and constantly update thousands of software applications, which are then downloaded (as if from a cloud) by users on their smartphones, making them into incredibly powerful devices that can perform myriad tasks.

Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce.com, a cloud-based software provider, describes this phase of the I.T. revolution with the acronym SOCIAL. S, he says, is for speed — everything is now happening faster. O, he says, stands for open. If you don’t have an open environment inside your company or country, these new tools will blow you wide open. C is for collaboration because this revolution enables people to organize themselves within companies and societies into loosely coupled teams to take on any kind of challenges — from designing a new product to taking down a government. I is for individuals, who are able to reach around the globe to start something or collaborate on something farther, faster, deeper, cheaper than ever before — as individuals. A is for alignment. “There has never been a more important time to have all your ships sailing in the same direction,” said Benioff. “The power of social media is that it is easier than ever to both articulate, and reinforce, the vision and values that create and inspire alignment.” And L is for the leadership that does that. Leadership in a SOCIAL world has to be a mix of bottom-up and top-down. Leaders need to inspire, enable and empower everything coming up from below in a company or a social movement and then edit and sculpt it with a vision from above into a final product.

Read the whole article: http://fbkfinanzwirtschaft.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/one-country-two-revolutions/


Something is Happening Here

12. October 2011

Date: 12-10-2011

Source: THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

When you see spontaneous social protests erupting from Tunisia to Tel Aviv to Wall Street, it’s clear that something is happening globally that needs defining. There are two unified theories out there that intrigue me. One says this is the start of “The Great Disruption.” The other says that this is all part of “The Big Shift.” You decide. 

Read further: http://fbkfinanzwirtschaft.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/something%e2%80%99s-happening-here/


Too Many Hamburgers?

22. September 2010

  Date: 22-09-2010
 Source: THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
To visit China today as an American is to compare and to be compared. And from the very opening session of this year’s World Economic Forum here in Tianjin, our Chinese hosts did not hesitate to do some comparing. China’s CCTV aired a skit showing four children — one wearing the Chinese flag, another the American, another the Indian, and another the Brazilian — getting ready to run a race. Before they take off, the American child, “Anthony,” boasts that he will win “because I always win,” and he jumps out to a big lead. But soon Anthony doubles over with cramps. “Now is our chance to overtake him for the first time!” shouts the Chinese child. “What’s wrong with Anthony?” asks another. “He is overweight and flabby,” says another child. “He ate too many hamburgers.”

That is how they see us. Read the rest of this entry »