Malcolm Gladwell

I went to an event featuring Malcolm Gladwell last night. He is the author of The Tipping Point and he has a new book coming out next year called Blink. It’s about the rapid decisions we make in the first couple of seconds after we first meet someone or walk into a new situation. He gave a fascinating example about hiring for classical orchestras. Apparently, orchestras used to be 90+% male. The maestros responsible for hiring new musicians used to give reasons like men have bigger lungs or bigger hands and are therefore better at playing certain instruments. Then a change started happening in their hiring practices. During auditions for new spots, they started using large screens to separate the job applicants from the listeners (in order to be able to better focus on the music). The result of these screens going up was that the percentage of women getting hired into orchestras skyrocketed (the ratio is about 50/50 today). Turns out the screens had the great side effect of filtering out hiring biases the maestros claimed they didn’t have. Instead of seeing a woman walk on stage and making a snap judgement about her abilities, they used only their ears and picked the best musicians. Gladwell had some great and amusing examples of how taken aback the maestros were when this first started happening.

I think this will be a great book.

Gladwell then talked about how we should work on removing biases from hiring processes. This made me think that blogging is a good example of this. A blog reveals a lot about a person, but it also errects a screen between the blogger and the audience that does not exist in a job interview. I can read a blog and learn a ton about the author while there’s a screen preventing me from making biased snap judgements based on what the author looks like, how tall they are, how they might fit in, etc.

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Toni Schneider

Partner at True Ventures. Team lead at Automattic. Advisor at Atipica, Bandcamp, Handshake, Hatch Baby, Madefire, Renovo Motors, and Tend.ai.

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