“The world only cares about what you can do with what you know.”

I read a fascinating article from Thomas Friedman on the weekend (read the whole thing) on what Google looks for in hiring employees.  Here is the last paragraph:

Google attracts so much talent it can afford to look beyond traditional metrics, like G.P.A. For most young people, though, going to college and doing well is still the best way to master the tools needed for many careers. But Bock is saying something important to them, too: Beware. Your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn. This will be true no matter where you go to work.

A couple of thoughts…

First of all, as a principal, I rarely if ever looked at a person’s marks from university when hiring them.  It was not a determining factor especially since I saw that some of the worst teachers from my time in school had the best marks in university.  This is not always true, but when someone has mastered the way school has been done, the notion of school looking different for students is pretty tough to swallow.  The skills that Friedman referenced that Google looks for are similar to what I looked for in hiring a new teacher, and I am guessing, it would be similar to most employers today.

Secondly, if these skills (leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn)  are so important for a company like Google, will this skill-set not become the norm for others? And if they are, how will a system that is so focused on grades and marks deal with developing skills that can’t be easily measured?

  • Clarissa Bezerra

    George, couldn’t agree more. You say “when someone has mastered the way school has been done, the notion of school looking different for students is pretty tough to swallow.” I think you nailed it right there. I also like “adaptability and loving to learn and re-learn” Love how the re-learn embodies the very essence of its stem – learn. It’s never-ending and ever-recurrent. Thank you for this post! Awesome!

  • Barry Dyck

    These skills are important to Google because they are not focused on simply repeating what they’ve done before. They constantly seek out ways to improve their services and are willing to change things (Google Reader) even while drawing ire from customers.

    Why are so many in education fearful of change? Do they really believe that their bored students just don’t understand that there are things they “must learn” for their (unknown) future?

    What are we doing as educators with what we know?

  • Justin McCollum

    Grades/marks, SAT scores, and all the other numbers are easy to come up with and easy to prepare. We widely acknowledge that they are inadequate and inaccurate today. The problem is, they still exist. They are still the go-to way to communicate our strengths. We need to find ways to not just say that they are not good enough today, but to figure out what IS good enough, what IS useful, and figure out how to make that the new default.

  • Jake West

    We are changing the game:


    We are currently in discussion to pilot an all new approach to grades and curriculum in BC. Fingers crossed that we begin next Sept.

  • WafaHozien

    Prince George’s County (MD) will reform its grading policy to include behavior. IT would be interesting to see what happens there.

    “The Prince George’s County school system plans to review its grading policy to assess the purposes of evaluating students on their academic performance, including whether homework should be graded, if behavior should be a factor and whether students are given enough credit for showing improvement.”

  • http://about.me/aaron.davis Aaron Davis

    Interesting observations George. Definitely a change of mindset needed I guess. The group at ATC21s working out of University of Melbourne have been working on the problem of measuring the seemingly unmeasurable. Their answer seems to be ‘continuums’. They have particularly focused on problem solving and collaboration. http://atc21s.org/index.php/professional-development-module-2-released/

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