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HLG Notebook | July 2013

1. A Guide to Hiring the Second-Best

The vice-chairman of Ogilvy UK offers this counterintuitive, game-theory approach to hiring. Go after the people who didn’t graduate at the top of their class – or anywhere near it:

If we confine our recruitment efforts to people in the lower half of the degree ladder, we shall have an exclusive appeal to a large body of people no less valuable than anyone else. And such people will be far more loyal hires, since we won’t be competing for their attention with deep-pocketed pimps in investment banking. The logic is inarguable: the best people to hire (or date) are those undervalued by the market.

We’ll need to check back in two years to see how this works out.back to top

2. Anxiety: The New Puritanism

Long-overdue article in The New Republic on why anxiety about food, germs, birthday parties, etc., has turned liberal parents into the New Puritans:

Today, the right still dabbles eagerly in the anti-fluoride, anti-vaccination, and other anti-science pathologies, but the left may be the even greater culprit….But there are key differences in how liberals and conservatives come by their fears. On the right, these mental illnesses stem from fear of government. On the left, their origins are a bit harder to pin down, but they stem from an old mix of righteousness and the fear of contamination.

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3. Dumbness for Dummies

Kenneth Goldstein’s reflective essay on the virtues of being dumb in a world dominated by TED, NPR, and The New Yorker. Mostly stupid, but clever:

I am a dumb writer, perhaps one of the dumbest that’s ever lived. Whenever I have an idea, I question myself whether it is sufficiently dumb. I ask myself, is it possible that this, in any way, could be considered smart? If the answer is no, I proceed. I don’t write anything new or original. I copy pre-existing texts and move information from one place to another. A child could do what I do, but wouldn’t dare to for fear of being called stupid.

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4. A Historian Tells Europe to Stop Talking

Walter Laqueur – author of countless books, dean of European historians, and highly opinionated observer of leadership – gives a wide-ranging interview to Der Spiegel on the future of Europe. He makes that case that, in geopolitics, words without action are detrimental:

Europe is much too weak to play a civilizing or moral role in world politics. Nice speeches and well-intentioned admonitions carry little weight when made from a position of weakness. In fact, all they do is aggravate China and Russia. Such reproofs are presumptuous, insincere and, unfortunately, often ridiculous. Under the current circumstances, Europe would be well advised to keep a lower profile.

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5. International Sports: Money Losers

As Brazil stumbles toward hosting the World Cup and the next Summer Olympics, this article reminds us that large, international sporting events usually leave the sponsors bankrupt. It builds on Oxford research that found that “every single Olympic Games held in the last 50 years had overrun initial cost estimates. The average cost overrun was an eye-watering 179%.” So:

Why do nations keep doing this? Despite overwhelming proof that hosting these events achieve little but to boost national pride in the short term and national debt in the long, countries continue to bid for events they can hardly afford….Athens, Beijing and South Africa are all now littered with sporting venues that are seldom used, if at all. Brazil, despite all its football madness, will struggle to use so many world-class stadiums.

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6. Why Ayn Rand Is No Guide for Business

Long, brutal profile in Bloomberg Businessweek about Eddie Lampert’s management of troubled retailer Sears. The “reclusive billionaire” borrows heavily from Atlas Shrugged and Freakonomics:

Lampert runs Sears like a hedge fund portfolio, with dozens of autonomous businesses competing for his attention and money….He created the model because he wanted deeper data, which he could use to analyze the company’s assets. It’s why he hired Paul DePodesta, the Harvard-educated statistician immortalized by Michael Lewis in his book Moneyball, to join Sears’s board. Only so far, Lampert’s experiment resembles a different book: The Hunger Games.

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