Yeah baby, Thomas Edison could certainly work at Google. The notoriously imaginative and cutting edge company would welcome him with open arms, even though he never got past third grade before being educated at home by his mother.
In a bold interview with the New York Times, Google talked about what traits it looks for when hiring talent; and if colleges and high schools are listening, it might give them cause to re-consider how they teach tomorrow’s talent. Laszlo Bock, their senior VP of people operations lists five attributes – in this order – they look for in new hires; regardless of whether a candidate has a formal college degree or not:
- Learning ability-to process on the fly; to synthesize data/information from many sources [it’s not simply IQ]
- Emergent leadership-not traditional leadership; knowing when to lead and when to step back and follow others
- Working together to solve problems-owning the problem and dynamic teamwork
- Intellectual humility and knowing how to learn from failure
- Expertise is OK, but people with drive and desire can easily overcome this.
In the Google world, one’s college degree is not a guarantee of performing well on-the-job. It is not about what you know, but what you can do with what you know, i.e. the ability to find utility for great ideas and create wealth for the company; to help strategically position it to compete in a globally competitive world. If you can perform this kind of magic with what you know, Google does not care if your earned that ability behind a desk in college or working in the real world and never got a college degree.
Thomas Edison thought this way about the talent he hired as well. Many a college educated man applying for a job at the legendary Edison West Orange Labs left disappointed when a non-college man, or technician, walked away with the job they had hoped to attain. Old Tom even had a controversial test he administered to whoever came seeking employment.
Tom’s mom, Nancy Elliot Edison, encouraged Tom to practice some simple rules, which he felt greatly aided his long life of uncommon success. She always impressed upon him:
- Read, read, read … everything not just what you like. Appreciate all literature.
- Do not be afraid to fail-learn from it. Keep trying.
- Not everything that is valuable comes from books-experience the world.
- Never stop learning!
We think Google would agree.
Tom’s experiments in his basement lab of the modest Milan, Ohio home he grew-up in was a source of trepidation for his father Samuel. There was plenty of noise, strange equipment, “pops and bangs”, and ever-present odors; but his normal-school-trained mother knew well the young man’s sense of curiosity and drive would soon find true direction … with some gentle encouragement. She certainly was right.
So Mr. Bock, when should Tom report for work? Might we suggest his mother may be available as well…maybe a kind of consultant role?
Check out Google’s doodle in celebration of Thomas Edison’s 164th birthday in 2011.
“Our schools are not teaching students to think. It is astonishing how many young people have difficulty in putting their brains definitely and systematically to work …”
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