Fit, Foolproof, Swiped

Appearing in In The Black, March 2016

Book review column

 

Fit: When Talent and Intelligence Just Won’t Cut It

By Warren Kennaugh

Wiley, $30, 280 pages, ISBN 9780730324942

Much ink has been spilled over the ‘war for talent’ but Kennaugh, a behavioural strategist specialising in the development of elite performance, says it is the wrong battle on the wrong ground. The better course in recruitment is to look for natural characteristics, skills and values that align with both the role and the larger organisation. A focus on technical expertise and achievements in a different context is likely to result in an outcome that is bad for everyone.

Kennaugh is a great believer in the Hogan personality assessment tools to identify specific strengths and traits. The key is to understand a person’s preferred, instinctive behaviours; the motives, values and preferences that ultimately drive those behaviours; and the traits that might derail performance. Interestingly, derailing behaviours – the ‘dark side’ personality – are often useful early in one’s career but become dangerous further up the ladder.

Kennaugh is not saying that record and qualifications should be ignored in the processes of recruitment and management, only that they should not be dominant. It is essential to know what the employee finds satisfying and what model of work suits them (not everyone needs to be a good team player, for example). It is the manager’s responsibility to understand what a role requires, what metrics might be suitable, and how the job is likely to evolve. Kennaugh might have devoted more time to this aspect, but nevertheless he has presented an important paradigm for getting and giving the best.

 

Foolproof

By Greg Ip

Hachette, $35, 352 pages, ISBN 9781472214188

Attempts to regulate risk out of the economy will eventually lead to disaster, if it creates a sense of safety that prompts people to take increasingly dangerous paths. Ip is an economist who has moved into journalism, and he likes to find the deep issues behind the headlines. In the Global Financial Crisis, forest fires, nuclear meltdowns, and airplane crashes, he finds the complacency pattern again and again. A certain level of risk has to be accepted in a dynamic system. But Ip is no laissez-faire ideologue, instead favouring a balance between intervention to minimise harm and policies to encourage choice. He accepts that the line can be hard to draw, although the more important issue might be to know the right questions to ask.

 

Swiped

By Adam Levin

Public Affairs, $42, 288 pages, ISBN 9781610395878

Everyone will eventually find themselves under cyberattack, according to Levin, a consumer advocate with a background in technology. The most frightening thing is how easy it is: some people put so much personal data into public space that it is like leaving the front door open. Determined hackers can put together pieces from a variety of sources to create a convincing fake, and even semi-talented amateurs can do enormous damage. Levy offers a wealth of suggestions, noting that an increasing number of companies are engaging specialists to ensure data integrity. But for individuals the crucial point is to think about what you put onto the Net (or even your phone), and consider how that Facebook post could be used by the bad guys.

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