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Parlio Q&A with Adam Grant

Stashed in: Women, Hiring, @hunterwalk, Awesome, @sherylsandberg, XX, Give and Take, Give and Take, @hunterwalk, AMA, Corporate Diversity, @sherylsandberg

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Very high-quality Q&A with our friend Adam Grant!

I had never heard of Parlio before. Seems like a higher quality version of a Reddit AMA. 

I'm quoting my favorite answers of his below.

Adam Grant on bringing diversity to corporations:

I've been pleasantly surprised by how receptive leaders are-- but that may be a selection bias, in that I'm usually sharing these ideas with people who have asked for help in this area. I think Sheryl Sandberg has fundamentally changed the conversation with Lean In. Leaders worldwide (especially male CEOs) are more aware of their biases and more committed to embracing diversity.

In my experience, the leaders that are more receptive seem to be (a) less insecure, (b) women, (c) men with daughters, and (d) men who have witnessed diversity problems in their own organizations.

My favorite idea for bias interruption that hasn't become popular yet is to put sociometric sensors in meetings. You can literally track who's dominating the conversation, and it seems like an elegant and powerful way to balance things out (i.e., get white men to listen more). See

Adam Grant on becoming a successful giver:

We need much more research on this, but my sense is that the easiest shift is from selfless to successful giving. It involves being more thoughtful about three everyday choices:

1. Who you help. Over time, givers become cautious with takers so you don't, and make tradeoffs easier by prioritizing who matters most to you (for me, it's family first, students second, colleagues third, and everyone else fourth).

2. How you help. Successful givers learn to be specialists, not generalists, by focusing on one or two kinds of contributions that they enjoy and make skillfully. This increases their ability to have a unique impact, makes giving more sustainable, and discourages others from bothering them with requests that don't fit their interests and expertise. (My two favorite forms of giving are sharing evidence about work and psychology, and making introductions between two people who could benefit from knowing each other.)

3. When you help. I've watched many givers become more vigilant about blocking time in their calendar to get their own work done, setting aside separate windows to assist others. 

I think changing from taker or matcher to giver is more challenging, as it requires a shift not just in daily habits, but in more basic intentions toward others and assumptions about the world. That said, in experiments with Sharon Arieli and Lilach Sagiv, I found that we could increase giver values for at least six weeks just by asking people to reflect on why helping others was important to them and persuade others that they should give more. (They ended up getting convinced to give by the person they like and trust most: themselves.)

Overall, the good news is that we all have moments of giving, taking, and matching-- and these are choices that we make in every single interaction. A person's default style might not change overnight, but it's quite feasible to figure out what drives that person to give in particular ways to particular people in particular roles-- and then nudge a bit more giving.

Adam Grant on the hiring process, answering a question from Hunter Walk:

1. Rely less on interviews and more on work samples—actual examples of job-relevant tasks that applicants have done. It might be a report they created, a presentation they delivered, or a software program they wrote. It could be customer satisfaction, employee retention rates, or patents filed. When data on past performance aren’t available, create simulations. If you’re hiring salespeople, ask them to sell you something. If you’re looking for people who can thrive under pressure, put them in a stressful situation and see how they respond. If you want leaders, challenge them to create a vision and mobilize a group of strangers to follow them.

2. Change how you interview. We have a century of evidence that typical job interviews are terrible predictors of performance. If you have to conduct them, recognize that good job interviews are a lot like standardized tests. Managers can dramatically improve the accuracy of their interviews by (a) identifying relevant questions in advance, (b) asking every applicant the same kinds of questions, and (c) developing an answer key to score their responses. The answer key is not difficult to create: pose your questions to current employees, and see how stars and low performers respond differently.

3. Focus on screening out, not screening in. Rick Jacobs finds that the costs of a bad hire are often double to triple the benefits of a good hire. It’s challenging to reduce your false positive rate and your false negative rate at the same time—if you’re going to prioritize one, I’d focus on reducing false positives. Every once in a while, you’ll miss a stellar candidate, but that will usually be less painful than making a big bet on the wrong candidate.

For a summary of the data behind the points above, and more on evidence-based job interviews, see

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