Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Where are the smart people? How do you find them?

“Wherever you work, most of the smart people are somewhere else." - Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems; Partner, Kleiner Perkins

As we hire people at Local Motors to build cars, build websites, forge community, design fantastic visions, and so much more, this phrase rings in my ears. What did Bill Joy really mean when he said this?

At first, I had thought it was more of a "cutsie" phrase that sounded better than being substantial. I have now changed my tune.

Certainly, Joy was discussing the power of Open Source innovation to share knowledge between people who would otherwise never work for you, and that is very applicable to our design efforts at Local Motors. But he also may have stumbled upon something else.

Maybe he was subconsciously referencing the age old issue of developing one's people well and fully. I have stopped believing that there is ONE right person for the job (any job), and that it is a good manager's job to find him. The world is just too big and people are just too similar in the human makeup for me to believe that statement. Instead, I believe that many people could be the right person for a job, but most need to be developed.

Then what is it that one ought to look for in a potential team member? Though it cannot be the solution for everything, I think that Passion for the business is clearly one of the senior ingredients. In short, without this, it is unlikely for a person to want to spend the extra time to learn the business and to become one of the "smart" ones.

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