I know you’ve all thought it at some time of your life, but Chris Dillow thinks it really is true:
It could be that the reason why so many “top jobs” are done badly is not that second-raters do them, in which case the problem would be solved by hiring the right people. Instead, it could be that the jobs are so demanding that no amount of brains and ability would suffice. …Humans just lack the skills to do many complex tasks.
It does seem unlikely that many high-pressure, and highly paid, jobs would have only incompetent applicants. Or that the interviewing panel wouldn’t care enough about the future of their firm to put some effort into finding the right person for the job. Yet it is common to hear people complain about how terrible this politician or that CEO are. So perhaps the job really is just too much to expect of a human.
Dillow’s solution sounds like a good one: design jobs that humans can do rather than looking for super-humans to do them. It probably makes sense even if there are some super-humans out there. Not only would the search costs to find them be immense, but so would the salaries that they command! Of course, you have to wonder why, if the solution’s so obvious, someone hasn’t done it before? Maybe the (meta-)problem’s just a bit harder than Dillow is giving credit for.