Why hiring the ‘best’ people produces the least creative results

Complex problems undermine the very principle of meritocracy: the idea that the ‘best person’ should be hired. There is no best person.

Florida Unemployment Rate Reaches 9.4 Percent (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

While in graduate school in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I took a logic course from David Griffeath. The class was fun. Griffeath brought a playfulness and openness to problems. Much to my delight, about a decade later, I ran into him at a conference on traffic models. During a presentation on computational models of traffic jams, his hand went up. I wondered what Griffeath – a mathematical logician – would have to say about traffic jams. He did not disappoint. Without even a hint of excitement in his voice, he said: ‘If you are modelling a traffic jam, you should just keep track of the non-cars.’ 

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