Category Archives: ITAshare

Big Data at Google


clojuneTo see Big Data at work, look to Google, where number-crunching on a massive scale has changed hiring and management practices. Measurements and analytics rule at Google. “All people decisions at Google are based on data and analytics,” according to Kathryn Dekas, a manager in Google’s “people analytics” team. Google’s conclusions have a bearing on where CLOs should be focusing their efforts.

If you interviewed for a job at Google several years ago, you might have been asked to answer questions like these:

  • You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and thrown into a blender. Your mass is reduced so that your density is the same as usual. The blades start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?
  • What’s the next number in this sequence: 10, 9, 60, 90, 70, 66 … ? 
  • Using only a four-minute hourglass and a seven-minute hourglass, measure exactly nine minutes—without the process taking longer than nine minutes. 
  • A book has N pages, numbered the usual way, from 1 to N. The total number of digits in the page numbers is 1,095. How many pages does the book have? 
  • A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened? 

Your odds of getting an interview greatly improved if you had a high GPA, astronomical SATs, and graduated from an Ivy League college because the founders believed these things were important. 

No longer. Brainteaser questions have been banned, Google recruiters no longer ask about grades, and you don’t have to have a college degree to land a job. 

In an interview published in The New York Times last June, Lazslo Bock, Google’s SVP of People Operations said, “On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

College didn’t matter either. Statistics found that GPAs and SAT did not correlate to success on the job, so Google stopped using them. Even earning a college degree rarely seemed to make a difference in job performance, so Google no longer requires a degree to get hired. 

Students in school learn to give specific answers. They memorize and parrot back explicit information. In the workaday world, often there is no pat answer. The challenge is to formulate the questions as well as the answers. Google is seeking people who can solve problems that don’t have a clear answer.

The numbers told Google that its most innovative workers “are those who have a strong sense of mission about their work and who also feel that they have much personal autonomy.” Google looks to what people can become as they grow on the job, not where they come from.

Leadership. “We’ll want to know how you’ve flexed different muscles in different situations in order to mobilize a team.”

Role-Related Knowledge. “We’re looking for people who have a variety of strengths and passions, not just isolated skill sets. We also want to make sure that you have the experience and the background that will set you up for success in your role.” Technical hires — about half of new Googlers — must demonstrate their ability to code,

How You Think. “We’re less concerned about grades and transcripts and more interested in how you think. We’re likely to ask you some role-related questions that provide insight into how you solve problems.”

Googleyness. “We want to get a feel for what makes you, well, you. We also want to make sure this is a place you’ll thrive, so we’ll be looking for signs around your comfort with ambiguity, your bias to action and your collaborative nature.”

Bock says. “The No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not IQ. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.”

Google is more interested in who people are than what they know. Experience is the teacher, not the classroom. 

Your company’s situation may differ. Google is exceptional, an outlier, and it draws on an extraordinary talent pool. But all-in-all, Google’s findings bring into question training’s usual focus on knowledge over personal growth. 

How much of your organization’s investment in L&D centers on developing people rather than teaching skills? At Google, self-directed continuous learning is the norm. Job rotation is fluid. There’s little formal training.

If Google doesn’t value college credentials, it makes one wonder about the national drive for STEM education. 

I’ve posted answers to the brainteasers at

This article appears in the June issue of CLO Magazine.


MOOCs = Skinner’s Box 2.0?

blackBoxA radical high school teacher came up with the title.

Last year his class ran under his experimental class operating system in stealth mode. Howard Rheingold, Jerry Michalski, and others, myself included, have dropped by. The teacher will uncloak soon to reveal an interdisciplinary approach where students select what to learn from Open Education resources. Learning is experiential and self-directed.

We had scant time to talk because I’m under the gun completing a project but I immediately Continue reading MOOCs = Skinner’s Box 2.0?

Vote for your favorite learning tool

It’s time to vote for your ten favorite learning tools.

Jane Hart started this poll five years ago. I was the first participant.



Now more than a half million people check out the results. The trends tell the story of how online learning is changing. The past five years bear witness to major shifts, from authoring Push content to discovering via Pull and learning in communities.

What is a “learning tool”? This could be a tool you use for teaching, Continue reading Vote for your favorite learning tool

How to Replace Top-Down Training with Collaborative Learning (3)

Third post in a series. In case you missed it, here are the first and second.

Technological infrastructure for social learning

Work and learning are converging, and as this change happens, the infrastructure of the old corporate learning must go – things like traditional one-size-fit-all in-person training seminars. In its place enters social and informal learning hubs like on-demand content, live online discussions, wikis and forums, and searchable content archives. The Continue reading How to Replace Top-Down Training with Collaborative Learning (3)