A Thought Experiment from Childhood

Nostalgia is the new opium of the masses in the 21st century.” One ought not to forever dwell in the past just to cope with the present. History is meant to provide oneself with the ability to reshape the future after consulting the past. Not everything in the past was ideal nor should anyone be thinking the same about the future in the present moment. To be nostalgic over history is to come away with an unrealistic, fantastical understanding of the Real World that borderlines on frivolous escapism, if not outright defeatism.

After having spent ten years researching and conceptualizing what later became the Work-Standard, I am compelled to revisit what I was pondering over before embarking on that intellectual journey. This may seem odd, but in the late 2000s and early 2010s (2009-2011), I developed a passionate desire to start my own business. Exactly what that business might have been was not as important as whether I had an idea on how to achieve what I knew at the time would be an ambitious undertaking. Having a plan back then would help me develop an idea on how that business would become realized. Rather than searching for a job, it made far more sense to create my own. That business was just going to be a small one employing a few hundred people or so.

There was a lot of contemplation and brainstorming on my part to figure everything out. I still kept all those handwritten notes and charts after all these years inside a portable filing storage box. Looking back at it now, I see that not much has changed; what has in fact changed are the goals and priorities between now and then. Though entrepreneurial passion was replaced by analytical insight, my values have not changed.  

One important obstacle that I knew I would have to contend when the time came–and this was a particularly troubling one in today’s context–is how to find the right people to work in the right positions. Social Media and job boards did exist in those years, except the former was once called “social networking,” and the latter was more akin to a discussion board forum than an extension of Social Media. I instinctively felt that finding the right people was going to require more than just whether they had the right education, experience, skillset, connections (“networking” these days), and resume. Anyone can have all of the above, but things become problematic if they do not share the same vision, goals and values about the business, and where it needs to be.  

Even if I had pressed forward with that endeavor and kept that entrepreneurial passion, I still have every reason to believe starting that small business would not have gone anywhere. There are untold numbers of job-seekers in America that I could potentially choose to be an employee–a business partner–of mine at any given point.

To find the right people, I need to obtain the right information about them from their applications. The methodology may have originated a century ago, at the height of Fordism-Taylorism (q.v. The Third Place), but it took an entire bureaucracy of people to oversee that task for me. It was not until the 1970s that the whole process could be automated, the Technology reaching its maturity within the same timeframe as the ongoing Scenario 1999 Entries (the late 1990s). Most jobseekers know this Technology by the name of “Applicant Tracking System (ATS).” If I did pursue that childhood ambition instead of pursuing the Work-Standard, I would definitely be forced to use it out of necessity and not because I have complete faith that it would help me find the right people.

The problem with ATS, from a perspective uniting both past and future, is this: Am I looking for someone who will do the work that I expect them to or am I looking for interpersonal cooperation? In a World Wide Web (WWW) where trivial information proliferates beyond anyone’s ability to process and where it can be difficult to establish any way of getting to know somebody, ATS is not the right Technology. Throw in some middlemen recruiters on a job posting board somewhere and the issue itself has become even more problematic.  

Suppose for a moment that I, the Author, am interviewing the Reader, who in this context is a jobseeker convinced that they are the right person to be chosen for my business. I am presented with a choice between selecting the Reader and any of one of the dozens of other people who have applied for what is only a single open position. Here, I am presented with a dilemma where I can see myself being in either perspective.

Since there is only so much that ATS could do, which is narrow down my choices to ones who have informed me in their applications and resumes that they are the right person, I have to consider other means of narrowing my choices even further. What are my options?

  • If I tell the Reader that they need more education, I eliminate all possibilities of considering anyone who is passionate and committed enough to prove themselves.
  • If I tell the Reader that they need more experience, I eliminate all possibilities of considering anyone who I can work with over the long term.
  • If I tell the Reader that they need more skills, I eliminate all possibilities of considering anyone who has boundless potential for talent growth and personal self-improvement.
  • If I tell the Reader that they need more licenses and certifications, I eliminate all possibilities of considering anyone who cannot attain those requirements or is unaware of them.
  • And if I tell the Reader that they need to more connections or do more networking, I eliminate all possibilities of finding the right people who might share the same vision and values because I am only focusing within my limited Freundeskreis (Circle of Friends).

The more demands that I place on any of these categories, the fewer people there will be who can claim to have what I am looking for. Had I chosen to start my own business instead of pursuing the Work-Standard and I was in this situation, all I would be doing is limit the existing pool of potential applicants. Whether I was thinking about this issue as a child or as an adult, I am still arriving at that same fundamental issue. Whoever I hire, I am going to be forced to ask whether they are the kind of people that I can trust.

Is one loyal to Kapital and Schuld or is one loyal to the employees and myself? I ask from both the foresight that I displayed more than a decade ago and the hindsight that I am displaying more than a decade later. By being “loyal to the employees and myself,” I mean whether the Reader, as one among countless applicants, is willing to contribute to a workspace committed to long forgotten values of camaraderie and self-discipline. One must be willing to accept the triumphs and hardships of working for this business. My genuine concern now, as it was back then, is that such values have never been instilled in young people and there are no opportunities for young people to have those values. Since I have never found anyone with those values at a young age, I am not surprised that I was unable to carry out that old plan, and why it remains on paper inside a portable filing storage box.    

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2 replies

  1. Hi
    Nice read
    Great article! It’s important to reflect on past ambitions and goals, and appreciate how our values may have remained constant while our priorities and circumstances may have shifted. The insight on finding the right people for a business is thought-provoking and raises questions on the effectiveness of current hiring practices.
    Scott Dubois
    Civic Edge Lifestyle



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