To Find Good, Underrated People, De-Emphasize Popular Filters

People who earn the label “hidden gems” are hidden because they lie unturned after a popular, blunt filter is applied to a population. To find good, underrated people, de-emphasize popular filters.

If you want to find a woman to date, try not to filter in favor of big breasts, for example, since this is a popular filter. People watch MTV, demand goes up, supply goes down — competition for big breasts in the real world is fierce. And this really isn’t that good a filter, anyway. Physical beauty can take many forms. Cultivate an attraction (yes, I do think there’s some choice) in a less popular physical feature. For women, an analog is height — figure out a way to like short men and you’ll trade up big time on other important factors like personality.

If you want to hire someone for your company, try not to filter in favor of an education credential. It reflects a person at age 17 and is the most popular mass filter of other companies, driving up the price to hire someone with a Berkeley degree. As Arnold Kling has said, “When you are a start-up, you need to find people who are better than their credentials. The last thing you can afford to do is pay a premium for credentials.” Spot talent in other ways. And fully recognize the importance of drive — I have a friend who shuns hiring Harvard MBAs because of their “coasting attitude for the rest of life.” In other words, they don’t have to prove anything to anybody and will always be able to pull down a six figure salary from somewhere if they need to. This is exactly what you don’t want in an employee.

If you want to find a smart person who has time to be your friend, try to find a bad self-promoter. The popular filter, at least in business, is in favor of charismatic personalities and clever marketers. Find the brilliant mind who’s a so-so marketer and revel in her availability.

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