apperto

apperto

modern dwarsdenken

Geldmoord, of: de taak van centrale banken om ons geld minder waard te laten worden

Beetje lange titel, maar het dekt wel de lading van iets wat bijna niemand zich realiseert: het is de taak van de centrale banken (zoals De Nederlandse Bank) om ons geld minder waard te laten worden. Zij noemen dit “prijsstabiliteit” en het betekent dat zij streven naar een inflatie van “iets minder dan 2% per jaar” (zie hier op de site van De Nederlandse Bank). Anders gezegd streven zij er dus naar dat jouw en mijn geld ieder jaar 2% minder waard wordt. Dit doen zij door de rente te verhogen of verlagen.

Het mantra: dit is nodig om de economie te laten groeien. Gek genoeg weet niemand hoe dit werkt. Sterker, het is zelfs niet eens bewezen dát het werkt. Het mantra en de bijbehorende inflatiestimulans is vrij recent, ruwweg vanaf de eerste wereldoorlog. In de periode 1650 – 1914 was de waarde van de Britse pond bijvoorbeeld ongeveer gelijk. Er was wel eens inflatie, bijvoorbeeld in een periode van oorlog, maar hierna volgde weer deflatie.

Deflatie! Als dat in onze moderne economieën voorkomt, wordt zorgelijk gekeken en zelfs gesproken van het “deflatiemonster” (zie hier een willekeurig voorbeeld). Terwijl bij deflatie de koopkracht toeneemt.

Eén van de belangrijkste redenen om inflatie te stimuleren is om schulden relatief kleiner te laten worden. Sommigen beweren dat dit de enige mogelijkheid is om overheden én burgers hun schulden te kunnen laten aflossen. En daar zit dus een belangrijke oorzaak van veel (economische) problemen: we lenen te veel. Dat geld moet ergens vandaan komen. Dat kan natuurlijk van de instituten en personen die geld te veel hebben (pensioenfondsen, Bill Gates, etc.). Maar meestal is het “gewoon” van de bank. En waar halen die hun geld vandaan? Hier komt ‘ie: nergens vandaan. Banken creëren geld. Niet de overheid.

Banken maken geld, jawel. Hoe? (Wat nu volgt is wat kort door de bocht, maar het principe werkt wel zo.) Banken maken geld door het op de rekening van de lener bij te schrijven en daar een tegoed voor op hun eigen “rekening” (balans) op te nemen. Dit mogen ze niet ongebreideld doen. Er moet een bepaalde leverage tegenover staan. Deze leverage is een soort verhouding hoeveel geld er “echt” moet zijn en hoeveel een bank mag uitlenen. Hoe hoger het risico, hoe hoger deze leverage moet zijn en hoe hoger de rente zal zijn waarvoor het geld wordt uitgeleend. Een belangrijke factor om het risico te beperken is een onderpand.

Deze leverage is (onder andere) het probleem waardoor banken in 2008 massaal moesten worden gesteund. De onderpanden (zoals huizen, maar vooral ook de zogenoemde “verpakte hypotheken”) bleken veel minder waard dan waarvoor ze waren getaxeerd. De leverage moest dus veel hoger zijn. Oftewel: het “echte” geld dat tegenover de leningen die banken hadden uitstaan zou moeten staan, moest veel hoger zijn. Bij onvoldoende leverage gaat een bank failliet (zoals met Goldman Sachs gebeurde). Dus moesten de banken geld ontvangen enzovoort.

En zo is de cirkel rond. Banken creëren geld en verdienen daarover rente. Maar als de risico’s te groot zijn, wordt dit “opgelost” met geld van de belastingbetaler. Om de schulden die dit oplevert te kunnen aflossen, is inflatie “nodig”. Om de koopkracht toch gelijk te kunnen houden of te laten stijgen, moet de economie “groeien”, onder andere door… inflatie. Waardoor de koopkracht ook weer afneemt. Daarom moet… enzovoort. Om gek van te worden.

Geldmoord

In 2012 verscheen hierover een boek dat merkwaardig genoeg weinig aandacht heeft gekregen: Geldmoord van Edin Mujagić (zie hier de bijbehorende site). Alle recensies die ik heb gelezen zijn lovend, hoogleraren noemen het een must om te lezen. Toch bleef het boek onder de radar. Om die reden dit blogartikel met het advies dit boek te lezen. Het werpt een nieuw licht op bovenstaande ontwikkelingen, is zeer grondig onderbouwd en leest als een “monetaire thriller” (geleend van deze recensie van Sylvester Eijffinger, hoogleraar financiële economie en Jean Monnet hoogleraar Europese financiële en monetaire integratie aan de Universiteit van Tilburg).

Jean-Jacques Rousseau en de wortel van ongelijkheid

In zijn “Vertoog over de ongelijkheid” (1755) schreef Jean-Jacques Rousseau de vlijmscherpe woorden over de wortel van ongelijkheid:

De eerste die een stuk grond omheinde en durfde te zeggen ‘dat is van mij’, en mensen aantrof die onnozel genoeg waren om hem te geloven, was de ware grondlegger van de burgerlijke maatschappij. Wat een misdaden, oorlogen, moorden, wat een ellende en verschrikkingen was de mensheid niet gespaard gebleven als iemand toen de palen had uitgerukt of de gracht had gedempt en tot zijn medemensen had geroepen: ‘Hoed je om naar die bedrieger te luisteren; jullie zijn verloren als jullie vergeten dat de vruchten iedereen toebehoren en dat de aarde van niemand is’!

Lees het volledige betoog op verbodengeschriften.nl

A striking number of innovative companies have business models that flout the law

Pioneering entrepreneurs have often had an uneasy relationship with the law. America’s ruthless 19th-century “robber barons” believed it was easier to go ahead and do something, and seek forgiveness later, than to ask permission first. (It helps if you take the precaution of buying up the politicians who dispense the forgiveness.) The first carmakers had to battle against rules of the road that had been designed for the horse and cart. Britain’s “pirate” radio stations in the 1960s had to retreat to international waters to bring pop music to the masses.

The tension between innovators and regulators has been particularly intense of late. Uber and Lyft have had complaints that their car-hailing services break all sorts of taxi regulations; people renting out rooms on Airbnb have been accused of running unlicensed hotels; Tesla, a maker of electric cars, has suffered legal setbacks in its attempts to sell directly to motorists rather than through independent dealers; and in its early days Prosper Marketplace, a peer-to-peer lending platform, suffered a “cease and desist” order from the Securities and Exchange Commission. It sometimes seems as if the best way to identify a hot new company is to look at the legal trouble it is in.

There are two big reasons for this growing friction. The first is that many innovative companies are using digital technology to attack heavily regulated bits of the service economy that are ripe for a shake-up. Often they do so by creating markets for surplus labour or resources, using websites and smartphone apps: Uber and Lyft let people turn their cars into taxis; Airbnb lets them rent out their spare rooms; Prosper lets them lend out their spare cash. Conventional taxi firms, hoteliers and banks argue, not unreasonably, that if they have to obey all sorts of regulations, so should their upstart competitors.

The second is the power of network effects: there are huge incentives to get to the market early and grow as quickly as possible, even if it means risking legal challenges. Benjamin Edelman of Harvard Business School argues that YouTube owes its success in part to this strategy. When it launched in 2005, it was one of dozens of video sites competing for both content and viewers. Some, such as Google Video, diligently screened each video for copyright infringement. YouTube was more risk-taking, waiting for copyright owners to complain before taking down videos. The strategy worked: Google bought it for $1.65 billion in stock in 2006; and YouTube, which has just celebrated its tenth anniversary, is now huge, whereas many early rivals have faded away.

Advocates of the strategy calculate that, by providing a better service than incumbents, and by portraying their critics as defenders of vested interests, they can mobilise public opinion and get the rules changed, or interpreted, in their favour. They can also rely on politicians’ desire to appear forward-thinking. Last year Eric Pickles, a British government minister, announced the scrapping of restrictions on short-term lettings in response to the rise of Airbnb and similar services. “The internet is changing the way we work and live, and the law needs to catch up,” he said. Innovative companies that put growth before legal niceties have money to spend on PR and lobbying. Airbnb has sponsored the New York marathon; Uber has hired David Plouffe, formerly one of Barack Obama’s leading advisers, as head of policy.

But the strategy can be risky. Napster, an early music-sharing site, was crushed by lawsuits, even though its efforts paved the way for Apple’s legal downloading service, iTunes. It is particularly perilous in financial services, where regulators will crack down at the merest whiff of impropriety. Prosper was once America’s biggest peer-to-peer lender, and Lending Club a distant second. Prosper dashed for growth, initially ignoring the SEC’s warnings, whereas Lending Club shut down its operations for months while its founder figured out a way to comply. That helped Lending Club, which is now a listed firm, to overtake Prosper, whose fortunes revived only when its founder was ousted.

There is also the risk that those who do business with the rule-flouting companies may suddenly decide that it suits them to uphold the law after all. In California lawsuits have been filed by some Uber and Lyft drivers, arguing that they should be classified not as mere contractors but as employees—and thus be entitled to have their petrol and maintenance costs reimbursed—because the companies impose all sorts of petty rules on them, as if they were indeed employees: how clean their cars must be, what they can say to passengers, and so on.

On the straight and narrow

Such legal perils mean that companies need to be capable of pivoting rapidly to a new strategy if they cannot get the law changed in their favour. YouTube did so: although it got its start in life through people posting copyright-infringing clips, it now makes its living by sharing advertising revenue with people who post clips they have created themselves. There may be a lot of such pivoting ahead as disrupters are forced to explain themselves in court. The judge presiding over the Lyft lawsuit has noted that, in being asked to decide whether its drivers are employees or contractors, “the jury in this case will be handed a square peg and asked to choose between two round holes.”

Uber and Lyft are probably now well-enough established to be able to compete on the basis of convenience and quality even if they are forced to treat their drivers as employees. MyClean, an app that provides house-cleaners on demand in New York, has replaced its contract workers with employees, having concluded that it can provide a better service to its customers with a better-trained and more stable workforce. But for more fragile firms, it would be better still if legislators and regulators responded to the emergence of so many innovative, law-testing businesses by revving themselves up to internet speed and adapting their rule books for the digital age.

Source: Shredding the rules on economist.com

New business

Interesting observations on large and disruptive new business models:

NewBusiness

Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.

Since the Industrial Revolution, the world has developed complex supply chains, from designers to manufacturers, from distributors to importers, wholesalers and retailers, it’s what allowed billions of products to be made, shipped, bought and enjoyed in all corners of the world. In recent times  the power of the Internet, especially the mobile phone, has unleashed a movement that’s rapidly destroying these layers and moving power to new places.

The Internet is the most powerful mechanism we can imagine to match perfectly individuals that need something, and people with something to offer. The moment started slowly by reducing complexity and removing the middle layer in the late 1990s. From insurance to early PC makers like Dell to travel agents, this time seemed to be an age where “direct” became a desirable moniker. This time seemed to favor scale and efficiency over service or brand, for commodities like insurance cover or processing power, the overheads of sales, marketing and retail footprint were stripped away.

By 2015 things changed. The balance of power between the different service layers is a jostle for control. Price-comparison sites first seemed to provide welcome traffic to airlines before airlines tried and failed to starve them of their business and promoted their own apps and websites as the preferred route. But it was too late. Services like Ocado once offered a symbiotic relationship with supermarkets, yet now supermarkets fear the power that such companies get when they get closer to the customer. In this age, the customer interface is everything. There are two approaches.

Full Stack Companies 

Full stack companies like Tesla, Warby Parker, BuzzFeed, Nest or Harry’s seek to ensure control by owning all layers. From R&D to marketing, from distribution to sales, these companies do it all. It’s a great way to keep profit in the family, yet it’s harder to scale and build.

The Interface Owners

The new breed of companies are the fastest-growing in history. Uber, Instacart, Alibaba, Airbnb, Seamless, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, Google: These companies are indescribably thin layers that sit on top of vast supply systems ( where the costs are) and interface with a huge number of people ( where the money is). There is no better business to be in. The New York Times needs to write, fact check, buy paper, print and distribute newspapers to get their ad money. Facebook provides a platform for us to write our own content, and Twitter monetizes the front page of newspapers, which happens to now be the Twitter feed.

Our relationships are no longer with the service providers. Our mobile operators seem like dumb data pipes while WhatsApp provides the services we value and can monetize our attention.

The Interface Is Where the Profit Is

The interface layer is where all the value and profit is. Withings scales can cost five times than other weighing solutions because the addition of an app makes it smart health management, not just weight measurement.

Phillips Hue lighting can make 1,000 times more profit than a colored light bulb because it’s a home emotion system. Sonos beats any other music system I’ve tried because the experience of music while using it is delightful.

The value is in the software interface, not the products. It’s not just the smart home. Uber provides average cars in a premium way; Seamless makes the most disgusting of greasy kebab joints appealing and makes its margin from both sides. iTunes for many years took virtually all the profit made in the entire music industry by being just the thin software between the hard work making tunes and the money selling them.

Big Battles For the Customer Interface

The Internet age means building things is nothing other than code. We’re going to see a non-stop battle to leap ahead of each other. And also get more wide, Twitter may have started out as a microblogging platform, but it’s now aiming to be a way to exploit its audience to distribute TV content. Facebook’s attempts with news content now make it a news channel and thanks to Autoplay video, soon a way to watch TV content. Snapchat’s discovery features turned the IM platform into a way to consume TV content.

In the modern age, having icons on the homepage is the most valuable real estate in the world, and trust is the most important asset. If you have that, you’ve a license to print money until someone pushes you out of the way. So the question becomes, what are you going to do to stay there or get there? And once there, how do you exploit it?

Written by Tom Goodwin, first published on Techcrunch.com

Here’s Google’s secret to hiring the best people

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression” was the tagline for a Head & Shoulders shampoo ad campaign in the 1980s. It unfortunately encapsulates how most interviews work. There have been volumes written about how “the first five minutes” of an interview are what really matter, describing how interviewers make initial assessments and spend the rest of the interview working to confirm those assessments. If they like you, they look for reasons to like you more. If they don’t like your handshake or the awkward introduction, then the interview is essentially over because they spend the rest of the meeting looking for reasons to reject you. These small moments of observation that are then used to make bigger decisions are called “thin slices.”

Tricia Prickett and Neha Gada-Jain, two psychology students at the University of Toledo, collaborated with their professor Frank Bernieri and reported in a 2000 study that judgments made in the first 10 seconds of an interview could predict the outcome of the interview.

The problem is, these predictions from the first 10 seconds are useless.

They create a situation where an interview is spent trying to confirm what we think of someone, rather than truly assessing them. Psychologists call this confirmation bias, “the tendency to search for, interpret, or prioritize information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses.” Based on the slightest interaction, we make a snap, unconscious judgment heavily influenced by our existing biases and beliefs. Without realizing it, we then shift from assessing a candidate to hunting for evidence that confirms our initial impression.

Typical, unstructured job interviews are pretty bad at predicting how someone performs once hired.

In other words, most interviews are a waste of time because 99.4 percent of the time is spent trying to confirm whatever impression the interviewer formed in the first ten seconds. “Tell me about yourself.” “What is your greatest weakness?” “What is your greatest strength?” Worthless.

Equally worthless are the case interviews and brainteasers used by many firms. These include problems such as: “Your client is a paper manufacturer that is considering building a second plant. Should they?” or “Estimate how many gas stations there are in Manhattan.” Or, most annoyingly, “How many golf balls would fit inside a 747?”

Performance on these kinds of questions is at best a discrete skill that can be improved through practice, eliminating their utility for assessing candidates. At worst, they rely on some trivial bit of information or insight that is withheld from the candidate, and serve primarily to make the interviewer feel clever and self-satisfied. They have little if any ability to predict how candidates will perform in a job.

Full disclosure: I’m the Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, and some of these interview questions have been and I’m sure continue to be used at the company. Sorry about that. We do everything we can to discourage this, and when our senior leaders—myself included—review applicants each week, we ignore the answers to these questions.

The Unsung Genius of the Structured Interview

In 1998, Frank Schmidt and John Hunter published a meta-analysis of 85 years of research on how well assessments predict performance. They looked at 19 different assessment techniques and found that typical, unstructured job interviews were pretty bad at predicting how someone would perform once hired.

Unstructured interviews have an r2 of 0.14, meaning that they can explain only 14 percent of an employee’s performance. This is somewhat ahead of reference checks (explaining 7 percent of performance), ahead of the number of years of work experience (3 percent).

The best predictor of how someone will perform in a job is a work sample test (29 percent). This entails giving candidates a sample piece of work, similar to that which they would do in the job, and assessing their performance at it. Even this can’t predict performance perfectly, since actual performance also depends on other skills, such as how well you collaborate with others, adapt to uncertainty, and learn.

And worse, many jobs don’t have nice, neat pieces of work that you can hand to a candidate. You can (and should) offer a work sample test to someone applying to work in a call center or to do very task- oriented work, but for many jobs there are too many variables involved day‑to‑day to allow the construction of a representative work sample. All our technical hires, whether in engineering or product management, go through a work sample test of sorts, where they are asked to solve engineering problems during the interview.

The second-best predictors of performance are tests of general cognitive ability (26 percent). In contrast to case interviews and brainteasers, these are actual tests with defined right and wrong answers, similar to what you might find on an IQ test. They are predictive because general cognitive ability includes the capacity to learn, and the combination of raw intelligence and learning ability will make most people successful in most jobs. The problem, however, is that most standardized tests of this type discriminate against non-white, non-male test takers (at least in the United States). The SAT consistently underpredicts how women and non- whites will perform in college. Reasons why include the test format (there is no gender gap on Advanced Placement tests, which use short answers and essays instead of multiple choice); test scoring (boys are more likely to guess after eliminating one possible answer, which improves their scores); and even the content of questions.

Tied with tests of general cognitive ability are structured interviews (26 percent), where candidates are asked a consistent set of questions with clear criteria to assess the quality of responses. There are two kinds of structured interviews: behavioral and situational. Behavioral interviews ask candidates to describe prior achievements and match those to what is required in the current job (i.e., “Tell me about a time . . . ?”). Situational interviews present a job-related hypothetical situation (i.e., “What would you do if . . . ?”). A diligent interviewer will probe deeply to assess the veracity and thought process behind the stories told by the candidate.

Structured interviews are predictive even for jobs that are themselves unstructured. We’ve also found that they cause both candidates and interviewers to have a better experience and are perceived to be most fair. So why don’t more companies use them? Well, they are hard to develop: You have to write them, test them, and make sure interviewers stick to them. And then you have to continuously refresh them so candidates don’t compare notes and come prepared with all the answers. It’s a lot of work, but the alternative is to waste everyone’s time with a typical interview that is either highly subjective, or discriminatory, or both.

There is a better way. Research shows that combinations of assessment techniques are better than any single technique. For example, a test of general cognitive ability when combined with an assessment of conscientiousness is better able to predict who will be successful in a job. My experience is that people who score high on conscientiousness “work to completion”—meaning they don’t stop until a job is done rather than quitting at good enough—and are more likely to feel responsibility for their teams and the environment around them.

Sure, it can be fun to ask ‘What song best describes your work ethic?’ but the point is not to indulge yourself with questions that trigger your biases.

The goal of our interview process is to predict how candidates will perform once they join the team. We achieve that goal by doing what the science says: combining behavioral and situational structured interviews with assessments of cognitive ability, conscientiousness, and leadership. To help interviewers, we’ve developed an internal tool called qDroid, where an interviewer picks the job they are screening for, checks the attributes they want to test, and is emailed an interview guide with questions designed to predict performance for that job. This makes it easy for interviewers to find and ask great interview questions. Interviewers can also share the document with others on the interview panel so everyone can collaborate to assess the candidate from all perspectives.

The neat trick here is that, while interviewers can certainly make up their own questions if they wish, by making it easier to rely on the prevalidated ones, we’re giving a little nudge toward better, more reliable interviewing.

Examples of interview questions include:

  • Tell me about a time your behavior had a positive impact on your team. (Follow-ups: What was your primary goal and why? How did your teammates respond? Moving forward, what’s your plan?)
  • Tell me about a time when you effectively managed your team to achieve a goal. What did your approach look like? (Follow-ups: What were your targets and how did you meet them as an individual and as a team? How did you adapt your leadership approach to different individuals? What was the key takeaway from this specific situation?)
  • Tell me about a time you had difficulty working with someone (can be a coworker, classmate, client). What made this person difficult to work with for you? (Follow-ups: What steps did you take to resolve the problem? What was the outcome? What could you have done differently?)

Generic Questions, Brilliant Answers

One early reader of this book, when it was still a rough draft, told me, “These questions are so generic it’s a little disappointing.” He was right, and wrong. Yes, these questions are bland; it’s the answers that are compelling. But the questions give you a consistent, reliable basis for sifting the superb candidates from the merely great, because superb candidates will have much, much better examples and reasons for making the choices they did. You’ll see a clear line between the great and the average.

Sure, it can be fun to ask “What song best describes your work ethic?” or “What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?”— both real interview questions from other companies— but the point is to identify the best person for the job, not to indulge yourself by asking questions that trigger your biases (“OMG! I think about the same things in the car!”) .
We then score the interview with a consistent rubric. Our own version of the scoring for general cognitive ability has five constituent components, starting with how well the candidate understands the problem.

For each component, the interviewer has to indicate how the candidate did, and each performance level is clearly defined. The interviewer then has to write exactly how the candidate demonstrated their general cognitive ability, so later reviewers can make their own assessment.

Upon hearing about our interview questions and scoring sheets, the same skeptical friend blurted, “Bah! Just more platitudes and corporate speak.” But think about the last five people you interviewed for a similar job. Did you give them similar questions or did each person get different questions? Did you cover everything you needed to with each of them, or did you run out of time? Did you hold them to exactly the same standard, or were you tougher on one because you were tired, cranky, and having a bad day? Did you write up detailed notes so that other interviewers could benefit from your insights?

A concise hiring rubric addresses all these issues because it distills messy, vague, and complicated work situations down to measurable, comparable results. For example, imagine you’re interviewing someone for a tech- support job. A solid answer for “identifies solutions” would be, “I fixed the laptop battery like my customer asked.” An outstanding answer would be, “I figured that since he had complained about battery life in the past and was about to go on a trip, I’d also get a spare battery in case he needed it.” Applying a boring- seeming rubric is the key to quantifying and taming the mess.

Remember too that you don’t just want to assess the candidate. You want them to fall in love with you. Really. You want them to have a great experience, have their concerns addressed, and come away feeling like they just had the best day of their lives. Interviews are awkward because you’re having an intimate conversation with someone you just met, and the candidate is in a very vulnerable position. It’s always worth investing time to make sure they feel good at the end of it, because they will tell other people about their experience—and because it’s the right way to treat people.

In contrast to the days when everyone in Silicon Valley seemed to have a story about their miserable Google experience, today 80 percent of people who have been interviewed and rejected report that they would recommend that a friend apply to Google. This is pretty remarkable considering that they themselves didn’t get hired.

Don’t Leave the Interviewing to the Bosses!

In every interview I’ve ever had with another company, I’ve met my potential boss and several peers. But rarely have I met anyone who would be working for me. Google turns this approach upside down. You’ll probably meet your prospective manager (where possible—for some large job groups like “software engineer” or “account strategist” there is no single hiring manager) and a peer, but more important is meeting one or two of the people who will work for you. In a way, their assessments are more important than anyone else’s—after all, they’re going to have to live with you. This sends a strong signal to candidates about Google being nonhierarchical, and it also helps prevent cronyism, where managers hire their old buddies for their new teams. We find that the best candidates leave subordinates feeling inspired or excited to learn from them.

We also add someone with little connection to the group for which the candidate is interviewing—we might ask someone from the legal team to interview a prospective sales hire.

We also add a “cross-functional interviewer,” someone with little or no connection at all to the group for which the candidate is interviewing. For example, we might ask someone from the legal or the Ads team (the latter design the technology behind our advertising products) to interview a prospective sales hire. This is to provide a disinterested assessment: A Googler from a different function is unlikely to have any interest in a particular job being filled but has a strong interest in keeping the quality of hiring high. They are also less susceptible to the thin-slices error, since they have less in common with the candidate than the other interviewers.

So how do you create your own self-replicating staffing machine?

  1. Set a high bar for quality. Before you start recruiting, decide what attributes you want and define as a group what great looks like. A good rule of thumb is to hire only people who are better than you. Do not compromise. Ever.
  2. Find your own candidates. LinkedIn, Google+, alumni databases, and professional associations make it easy.
  3. Assess candidates objectively. Include subordinates and peers in the interviews, make sure interviewers write good notes, and have an unbiased group of people make the actual hiring decision. Periodically return to those notes and compare them to how the new employee is doing, to refine your assessment capability.
  4. Give candidates a reason to join. Make clear why the work you are doing matters, and let the candidate experience the astounding people they will get to work with.
    This is easy to write, but I can tell you from experience that it’s very hard to do. Managers hate the idea that they can’t hire their own people. Interviewers can’t stand being told that they have to follow a certain format for the interview or for their feedback. People will disagree with data if it runs counter to their intuition and argue that the quality bar doesn’t need to be so high for every job.

Do not give in to the pressure.

Fight for quality.

Excerpted from Work Rules!, published in April 2015 by Twelve, an imprint of Hachette Book Group. Copyright 2015 by Laszlo Bock. Previously published at wire.com

Why don’t you start doing what you want to do?

Once Nobel-prize winner Sinclair Lewis was asked to give a lecture on the writer’s craft at Columbia University.

He began by asking: “How many of you here are really serious about being writers?”

A number of hands went up.

“Well, why the hell aren’t you all home writing?”, Lewis asked and sat down.

“Ach, het is maar geld”: een avond met Joris Luyendijk

Al voordat het boek Dit kan niet waar zijn van Luyendijk dinsdag 17 februari verscheen, was het al een hype. Misschien omdat dit boek een echte trailer had, maar waarschijnlijk vooral omdat het boek door het onderwerp en de benadering verschijnt op exact het juiste moment.
2008 is inmiddels zeven jaar geleden, het ongeloof direct na het uitbreken van de crisis, gevolgd door boosheid op de “graaiers”, heeft bij velen inmiddels geleid tot gelatenheid, fatalisme of cynisme. Hierover later meer.

Over het boek Dit kan niet waar zijn

In zijn boek beschrijft Luyendijk zijn kijk op “de” bankwereld na 2 jaar in de Londense City te zijn ondergedompeld – om hierover een blog te schrijven voor de onvolprezen Guardian. Luyendijk gebruikte daarbij de werkwijze die hij bij zijn opleiding als antropoloog heeft geleerd: waardenvrije waarneming. Hij had echter een enorme beperking: rechtstreekse waarneming (in dit geval: op de werkvloer van de banken) was uitgesloten, want banken laten daar niemand, maar dan ook niemand, buiten werknemers toe.

Bovendien heerst er binnen de banken een “code of silence”: het is verboden te praten met buitenstaanders over je werk, op straffe van ontslag. Toch is het Luyendijk gelukt ruim tweehonderd insiders te spreken, op voorwaarde dat de informatie uit de interviews anoniem en onherkenbaar zou worden weergegeven. Nadat zijn bevindingen als blog bij de Guardian en NRC zijn gepubliceerd, heeft Luyendijk ze omgewerkt tot het boek Dit kan niet waar zijn, of zoals Luyendijk het zelf noemt: Kuifje bij de bankiers.

Constateringen van Luyendijk

Luyendijk komt tot de conclusie dat “de” bankenwereld ongelooflijk complex is en feitelijk bestaat uit ontelbare micro-systemen. Toch zijn er wel een structuren waar te nemen, bijvoorbeeld de onderverdeling in de front-office, mid-office en back-office. Elk van deze onderdelen heeft specifieke taken; de medewerkers ervan hebben competenties en persoonlijkheden die hier logischerwijs bij horen, van prooidieren en koele kikkers tot masters of the universe, de term uit Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. Spreken over “de” banken of “de” bankiers kan in Luyendijks ogen daarom feitelijk niet. Maar belangrijker: uiteindelijk heeft niemand het totaaloverzicht over “de” bank. De banken zijn too big to manage.

Door de steeds verdergaande automatisering van alle bankprocessen wordt één type medewerker steeds belangrijker: de quants, de meestal nerd-achtige wiskundigen. Misschien zijn zij wel de enigen die nog écht snappen wat er gebeurt binnen banken. Hoewel, de eerste generatie quants is of gaat met pensioen, terwijl de door hen ontwikkelde financiële producten en software nog altijd in gebruik zijn. Als het mis gaat, rest soms niets anders dan de stekker van de computer uit het stopcontact te trekken. Maar soms is het daar al te laat voor, zoals bij de bloedstollende flitskrach op 6 mei 2010, toen de beurzen in Amerika om onbekende redenen een paar minuten instortten, om zich om net zo onbekende redenen direct daarna weer te herstellen. Een financieel Armageddon door een crashende computer is niet ondenkbaar.

Luyendijk ontdekt ook dat de “perverse prikkels” binnen de banken niet de bonussen zijn waar de media zo dol op zijn om over te berichten. Dat is in zijn ogen te makkelijk; de beloningsstructuur ligt genuanceerd en moet binnen de context van miljardenwinsten worden bekeken. De échte perverse prikkels liggen dieper in het systeem. Zoals de focus op korte-termijn-winst die bijna onvermijdelijk ontstaat door het ontbreken van ontslagbescherming, wat leidt tot het besef dat je binnen 5 minuten op straat kan staan – letterlijk, zodat je je collega’s moet bellen om je jas naar buiten te brengen.
Een nog belangrijker perverse prikkel is het gegeven dat binnen banken medewerkers in de verschillende micro-systemen formeel misschien gescheiden zijn (“iedere afdeling heeft een eigen lift”), in de praktijk is er een vrijwel onvermijdbare belangenverstrengeling. Op de eerste verdieping praat de adviseur met Shell hoe het rendement verhoogd kan worden, terwijl op de tweede verdieping aandelen Shell worden verhandeld, op de derde verdieping analysten adviezen voorbereiden aan pensioenfondsen en andere institutionele beleggers met in hun portefeuille … Shell, etc. Of de zogenaamd onafhankelijke kredietbeoordelaars die worden betaald door de banken.
Maar zien bankiers dit zelf dan niet? Jawel, maar zij hanteren a-morele standpunten. Als iets niet bij wet verboden is, dan mag het dus en gebeurt het ook. Binnen de bankwereld is geen ruimte voor “de geest van de wet”. Een waardeloos product verkopen aan een (zakelijke) klant? Caveat Emptor, je behoort te weten wat je koopt, eigen verantwoordelijkheid.

Wat nu?

Luyendijk begint zijn boek met de metafoor van een defect vliegtuig, in de lucht, vol passagiers, maar met een lege cockpit. Het is een treffend beeld van het angstige besef dat het financiële systeem eigenlijk onbestuurbaar en door-en-door rot is, dat achterblijft na het lezen van het boek. Niet een beeld van graaiers en duivels, maar van een ondoordringbaar en onontwarbaar systeem, gedreven door perverse prikkels, met een enorm machtige lobby en too big to manage.

Maar wat dan nu? Wie kan ingrijpen om de weeffouten in het financiële systeem te repareren? Nationale regeringen ontberen de macht, want banken werken internationaal. Stel dat Nederland banken strengere regels oplegt, verplaatsen deze hun posities dan niet razendsnel naar landen met een welwillender regering? Hoewel volstrekt helder is wat moet gebeuren om de problemen op te lossen (zoals scheiden van consumenten- en zakenbanken, de zakenbanken verder opknippen om belangenverstrengeling te voorkomen, de leverage verder verhogen dan tot de 4% waaraan nu wordt gewerkt), ontbreekt klaarblijkelijk het politieke vermogen (of de wil) om dit soort maatregelen echt door te voeren.

Moeten wij als burgers dan het roer grijpen? In deel 4 van het boek Gaan wij het oplossen? geeft Luyendijk geen panklare oplossingen. Die zijn er volgens hem niet. Hij geeft wel aan wat volgens hem níet werkt.

Bij een discussie op 20 februari in Nijmegen ging het dan ook vooral daarover: hoe gaan we dit gigantische probleem oplossen? Luyendijk sprak zijn vertrouwen uit in het zelfreinigend vermogen van democratie. “Het is een chaos, maar in een democratie kunnen we daar tenminste over praten. Hoe denken jullie dat het bij de banken in China is? Dezelfde ingrediënten als in de City, maar dan nog eens overal corruptie, geen betrouwbaar rechtsysteem en geen democratisch toezicht.”

Maar, gaf hij ook toe, “democratische processen zijn taai en gaan langzaam.” Toch heeft hij hoop: “Het rommelt, er gebeurt wel iets”. Geen volksopstand, geen tweede Franse revolutie. Maar dat er een steeds bredere overtuiging heerst dat er fundamenteel moet worden gesleuteld aan grote maatschappelijke stelsels – de zorg, het belastingstelsel, de inrichting van de financiële instituties als banken en verzekeraars, de energievoorziening – dat is volgens Joris Luyendijk evident. “Piketty in Paradiso was sneller uitverkocht dan welke rockster dan ook.”

Is het probleem misschien te groot om op te lossen? “Democratie heeft gezorgd voor afschaffing van slavernij, voor de emancipatie van vrouwen en homo’s. Daarbij vergeleken is dit probleem misschien wel kleiner.”

Maar wat als het echt mis gaat? Moeten we – zoals in het boek geschetst rond het uitbreken van de crisis in 2008 – nu maar vast goud kopen, voedselvoorraden aanleggen, evacuatieplannen uitwerken? Luyendijk was laconiek: “Ik heb jaren in het Midden Oosten gewoond. Als je in een burgeroorlog belandt en je hebt goud in huis, weet je één ding zeker: dat komen ze dan wel halen. En hetzelfde geldt voor je voedselvoorraden. … Ach, weet je, het is maar geld. Meer dan 70% van de wereldbevolking moet het doen met 10% van onze welvaart. En hier hebben wij het ook duizenden jaren gedaan zonder die welvaart. Dus als het systeem echt helemaal instort, dan overleven we dat wel hoor.”

En laat dat nou eens wél waar zijn … Dank je, Joris, voor je onthullende en toch zo genuanceerde boeken en voor je nuchtere wijsheid.

Voor informatie over Joris Luyendijk en zijn boek Dit kan niet waar zijn, kijk op: www.jorisluyendijk.nl

MOOCs: innovation to disrupt traditional education?

MOOC is the acronym of Massive Open Online Course, public courses (often free), made for international and massive numbers of students. The content is distributed on-line, therefore not limited in time and space. Many MOOCs are produced by top-universities, like Harvard and Cambridge. As a new form of remote-education MOOCs are expected to disrupt traditional universities.

How does a MOOC work?

MOOCs are independent from location.They ‘connect’ teachers and students digitally, without physical meetings. Usually a specific theme is pondered during 5 to 7 weeks, with a weekly ‘broadcastprogram’, often 5 to 7 short video’s distributed during the week. Alongside traditional tools like texts, video’s and cases, MOOCs provide facilities for students, teachers and their assistants to interact digitally, for instance on discussion-boards.

What’s this video to find out how a MOOC works: