Tyler Cowen, an author, economist and philanthropist, talks about the inspiration for his new book and the importance of talent identification in business. He believes that talent assessment is an art rather than a science and that institutions like the Florentine Renaissance, which had a competitive process for identifying talent, have been particularly good at this. Tyler also mentions the success of identifying American business talent in the Midwest during the 20th century. China has also done a remarkable job in identifying CEO talent in a world where almost no one had an MBA, and India is currently the single hottest blossoming talent spot. He discusses the trend of companies investing in spotting talent overseas, particularly for smaller companies. With the pandemic and work from a distance, the chance of hiring talent in Indonesia or the Philippines is much higher than it was just a few years ago. However, it is harder to evaluate talent in other countries due to cultural differences and difficulty in interpreting references. And while talent is evenly distributed around the world, opportunity is not. Companies need to adapt their strategies to better identify and mobilize talent, as well as invest in international talent identification.
Screening Applicants and Recruiting Talent Tips
The increasing trend of independent professionals entering the international market and the importance of investing in pre-existing networks of soft contacts, Tyler suggests that companies should focus on building talent scouts or people who can help navigate different geographies around the world. He shares an example of hiring an Indian person who is well connected in India through his blog and podcast, which serves as a filter for potential applicants, reaching the people who are already aware of the company and will take the first step of contact.He also discusses the importance of screening applicants before the interview process, focusing on established track records, but with emphasis placed on behavior and actions taken and not merely words, and entrepreneurs who demonstrated curiosity and initiative, and those who can work independently but understand how they fit into a team. He emphasizes the importance of using soft connections to winnow down the field as much as possible. For the initial screening phase, Tyler suggests using pre-existing soft networks, such as those within the company or those who know them and can speak credibly about them. This approach is the highest yield way of approaching a problem where there are a large number of potential applicants and ensures that the candidate knows enough about the company and fits in. Tyler also emphasizes the importance of clear writing skills and how companies like Amazon and Stripe prioritize this aspect. He also shares a few tips to use during the interview process, and the use of practical exercises after the interview round, such as diagnostics or walk-throughs, to assess the candidate’s performance. In terms of evaluating the talent within the company, Tyler suggests investing in high levels of trust and focusing on what can be done now to build trust with employees. He shares onboarding advice, and states that focusing on mid-year or annual evaluations is not always the best approach to assessing talent.
Advice on Conducting Business Internationally
Tyler shares tips on how to travel and learn about a place. He suggests walking a lot, even in places not in guidebooks, and speaking to a broad range of people. He also advises buying a physical guide book in advance and reading it, as people rely too much on the internet when traveling. Tyler also uses soft networks to connect with people who may be readers or people living in that area to help him. He shares a few stories of philanthropic adventures, including one example of a successful small venture is Timothy, a Ukrainian American economist. He discusses the idea that successful small ventures are often made up of people who are similar in personality types, such as early PayPal, Peter Thiel, Reed Hoffman, and Elon Musk. While this idea may not be radical, it is true that some things work well when people are cut from the same bolt of cloth. In summary, Tyler emphasizes the importance of building a soft network and connecting with people who can help him in various ways. He also mentions that some successful small ventures are made up of people who share similar personality types, which is not necessarily radical but is sometimes not always true. He talks about the concept of status quo bias and how Americans are moving less frequently. He shares his experiences with starting new projects, such as Marginal Revolution University, which is now the number one economics education site on the internet. He also talks about the importance of finding mentors, current funded projects, and future collaborations.
Cracking Cultural Codes and Conducting Business Internationally
Cracking cultural codes is an important aspect of understanding a culture. Tyler shares an example of how traveling to different countries helps bond with people and understand their thoughts and feelings. He believes that showing genuine interest in a country’s culture can help break down barriers and encourage more ambitious individuals. A high leverage act is to raise someone’s ambition. He also discusses the importance of not being too polite when evaluating someone for fellowship and believes that showing genuine interest in a country’s culture can help break down barriers and encourage more ambitious individuals to pursue their passions. Tyler goes on to discuss how business is portrayed in the media and the value of management consulting and how the value of ideas underpins the entire enterprise. He emphasizes the importance of fluency in the English language and the development of a strong business culture. As an economist, Tyler also provides insights into the relative ability of management at a country level. He explains that management is better in some countries than others and how it changes over time. He also identifies the business scene of various countries on the rise, and how Danish business is different from American business.
Hiring Tips and Advice for Parents
Shifting back to hiring, Tyler emphasizes the importance of screening for resourcefulness and relentlessness in interviewing. He suggests that older individuals should be considered due to their track record and ability to capitalize on their full market value, and suggests taking note of “weird interests”, and looking for the level of detail in answers. On family life, he shares his advice for parents on how to help develop talented kids, emphasizing the importance of encouraging curiosity and deep interests. He advises parents to introduce their children to their talented friends, allowing them to explore different professions and interests on their own. Tyler’s objective function is to become an information trillionaire, which may not be possible at the moment. He wants to learn as much as possible about various topics, such as economics, history, social science, travel, language, culture, food, business, political science, and World Affairs.
05:12 Talent acquisition strategies and screening processes
13:10 Hiring and onboarding processes for talent
18:07 Travel, talent assessment, and philanthropy
24:31 Creativity, innovation, and personal growth
27:40 Mentorship, cultural codes, and raising ambition
33:30 Business, media, and consulting insights
39:18 Business cultures, thinkers, and productivity
43:55 Writing habits, productivity, and lifestyle