Advancing Technology Won’t Make Humans Obsolete
Machine learning has gone mainstream. It started with text and character recognition used by the USPS and has led to voice language processing with the likes of Siri, biosurveillance by the world Health Organization and microtargeted marketing from just about every company you can think of. And as evidenced by the Google driverless car, the self-driving car may not be far on the horizon.
But machine learning has an image problem, because what happens when the machine breaks? And it’s not a question of if--it is going to happen at some point. Case in point: In 2011, an unassuming scientific book popped up a $23.6 million list price on Amazon due to a robot price war caused by unruly algorithms. In a manner of speaking, machines are human too, in that they make mistakes.
Now take self-navigating cars. Once they hit the road, there are still going to be accidents. While the probability is likely to be much lower than with human drivers, who crash with alarming frequency, people are much less likely to forgive a robot. Machines learning methods are also 15- to 25-percent more accurate at predicting cancer susceptibility, recurrence and mortality, but we expect better. A 60-percent success rate isn’t good enough from a machine.
The fact is--and this should be comforting to many--the human role in artificial intelligence applications is far from obsolete. The objective of machine learning in some sense is to transfer some control from person to machine, but it’s still a human + machine equation. We’re responsible for paying attention to when things are changing in the environment and putting processes in place to control glitches in the system. Humans need to contribute their unique data in order to continuously improve and innovate.
The fact is, we’re the ones with intuition and creativity, not to mention the ability to understand humor and sarcasm. And there’s no doubt we’re better at relating to other humans and solving for certain problems. When it comes to recruiting, it’s not enough to simply have access to the data and algorithms that know how to populate certain patterns. You need skilled people who not only know how to analyze those patterns, but also know how to spot gaps in the data. At that point, one-on-one human interaction might be the best way to find the best match between a client and a candidate.
Machines will continue to improve in their usefulness in many verticals, and recruiting is among them. But as long as machines remain imperfect--and there’s a need for a need for human interaction in the system--humans are far from becoming obsolete.
Something Special About Athletes
When working with clients to establish a search strategy, I am often asked questions relating to the advantages and limitations of emphasizing specialist knowledge over general skills and utility. The question is often framed as the dilemma between the specialist and athlete.
The Value and Limitations of Specialists
Specialists possess specific skills and expertise relevant to a particular organization. These could be in the form of technical skills, knowledge of competitors or their products, relationships with prospect customers, or expertise in a particular category or domain. As a result specialists can often deliver the most impact in the shortest amount of time. The question is to what extent the specialist can evolve as the nature of the company, its market, customers and technology changes.
Hiring decisions biased in favor of specialist knowledge are thus inherently betting on the status quo, which in Silicon Valley is seldom a safe bet. As businesses and markets evolve, often at rapid pace and in unforeseen directions, skills and experience previously deemed relevant may no longer be so. Furthermore, specialist knowledge is by its nature confined to a limited number of potential candidates. As a result choice is limited and overall quality measures will potentially score lower than within a broader pool of general candidates.
The Value and Limitations of Athletes
Generalists should not be mistaken for athletes. The athlete is not simply the leader with broad skills, but the leader who has demonstrated adaptability and success in changing environments. In order to prosper in different sectors, markets or stages of companies, leaders employ skills with enormous utility, such as advanced critical thinking, organizational development and leadership, and the ability to draw conclusions from data that drive impactful business decisions.
Because of their multi-faceted skills and versatility, athletes are highly adaptable to a company’s goals and objectives, making them a valuable, long-term investment. Because the hiring of an athlete is driven by a desire for qualities and skills not limited to any one area, the potential pool of candidates is naturally much wider and therefore the hiring decision can be optimized for quality.
The Winning Mentality
Above all else, and to justify the label, athletes demonstrate a winning mentality. By seeking out and succeeding in new challenges, where success is predicated on personal attributes on not on some specialist knowledge, the athlete must possess the drive and desire to win.
A perfect example of the combination of adaptability with a desire to win is Alex Zanardi. Zanardi was a successful and flamboyant Formula 1 racing driver, a major accomplishment in its own right. In 2001 Zanardi had fought from the back of the grid to lead a Champ Car race when he was struck by another car and in the ensuing wreck lost both his legs. After recovering from the accident and being fitted with prosthetic legs, Zanardi took up handcycling, rising to the top of the sport and winning gold at the 2012 Paralympics. Zanardi’s success comes not only from his advanced technical skills in driving and motor sport, but in his innate and insatiable desire to win.
What separates Zanardi from others who may have suffered such a setback is his innate adaptability and insatiable competitive drive, which compelled him to transform his life and master something new. Despite losing his legs—the same legs that brought him tremendous success, fame, and money—he had the immeasurable will to not only overcome obstacles and adapt to change, but also continue to seek the highest level of success.
When it comes to technology talent, I believe the winners are those who can embrace and adapt to change, and possess an unlimited desire for success. Your company needs both.
About the author: Kevin Buckby is a Partner at Riviera Partners. He focuses on helping his clients compete successfully for the most highly sought-after product and marketing executive talent.
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It has been another exciting week for our clients! Keep up the great work!
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Iain Grant, a long standing Partner, here at Riviera shares his thoughts with AlleyWatch regarding several of the key characteristics that he looks for when curating Product leaders for clients.
(AlleyWatch) 8 Traits of a Great Startup Product Manager Many a startup was founded on a great idea, but it takes a great team to make sure that idea doesn’t falter before hitting the go-to-market finish line. The companies that end up with the best product and product design are those who are able to hire a superior VP of Product to lead the charge. Of course, finding this individual isn’t always easy.
One way to make the search easier is to know the characteristics that make a great Product Manager. In my early days of recruiting, I came across a list that I’ve tweaked over the years into eight traits that any recruiter should look for in a search for a VP of Product. The ideal candidate should be:
1. A Curious Being
Great product people tend to notice the sign in the airport that mostly works but could confuse five percent of travelers. The also have an idea for how the dashboard of a car could be designed better, or how a differently-shaped remote control would be easier to use without looking at it. And these are just a few examples. The best candidates are natively interested in how humans interact with everything - not just web sites and apps.
Read the full article here...
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Congrats to all of our clients doing amazing things this week! Keep up the good work!
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(Women 2.0) - How to Build a Winning Core Startup Team
Success begins with a great idea, but you need to build a winning team in order to make that idea a reality, and that’s no small feat.
Hiring a core team requires making a solid recruiting plan. Recruiting strategy will vary depending on the goals of the leader and the skills and experience of the hiring manager, but there is some general advice that applies to almost every tech company.
I talked with Wendy Saccuzzo, Career Development Specialist and Community Manager at Riviera Partners, to get her thoughts on how to build a successful team.
Start with Great Engineers
“Since most new companies are tech-focused to start with these days, engineering is usually the first need,” says Wendy. “Building an engineering team will stabilize a company’s presence and build traction.”
Read the full article here...
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