Archive for March, 2017

Knaves and Divas: Google’s Secrets to Recruitment

This week, we return our own blog to look at one of the most important aspects of management – recruitment.

Recruitment is integral to any firm. A manager should strive to find the best employee for the job. But who exactly is “the best employee for the job”?

We can get a clue into what to look for by observing those who seem to constantly hire the best talent there is – in this case, Google.


Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg recently penned a book by the name “How Google works”, which gives us some insights into the search giant’s structure and processes. We’ll stick to the part that we’re most interested in – how Google recruits its talent.

In a Google+ post describing their book, Schmidt and Rosenberg state that “Great people are often unusual and difficult” and go on to classify them into two categories, namely Knaves and Divas. Knaves are ill-witted employees that, according to Rosenberg, are devoid of integrity, sloppy, selfish and arrogant. They are also often jealous and take credit for other peoples work. Divas, on the other hand, are employees who are extremely talented and see themselves as better than the rest of the team. However, they still work for the victory of the team and their achievements in the team either match or outweigh their egos.

Being a Diva isn’t the only thing that defines the best employees though. This article from Fortune magazine shares some more of Google’s secrets to recruitment, with the first being the “LAX test”.

The LAX test (named after the Los Angeles International Airport’s nickname “LAX”) tests a person’s passion for a subject, as well as how interesting he/she may be (known at Google as a person’s Googleyness). In the words of Schmidt and Rosenberg,

“Imagine being stuck at an airport for six hours with a colleague; Eric always chooses LAX for maximum discomfort (although Atlanta or London will do in a pinch). Would you be able to pass the time in a good conversation with him? Would it be time well spent, or would you quickly find yourself rummaging through your carry-on for your tablet so you can read your latest email or the news or anything to avoid having to talk to this dull person?”

The pair, however, stress that being interesting doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to like that person. You don’t even need to share the same viewpoints, in fact, it’s even better if you have different viewpoints altogether.

“Great talent often doesn’t look and act like you. When you go into that interview, check your biases at the door and focus on whether or not the person has the passion, intellect, and character to succeed and excel.”

At Frontier we follow a similar mindset. When hiring new talent, we run candidates through a series of rigorous tests and interviews in an attempt to judge whether they not only have the knowledge for the posts they are applying for, but also (and more importantly) to make sure they are able to integrate with our culture. Since most people leave their respective universities/institutions vying for a “traditional” firm with its processes, structures, corporate ladders etc. (which we don’t offer), this “culture-fit” is very important. Despite the strictness of our recruitment process, we have seen a steady influx of great talent into our company over the years  and we keep evolving in order to make sure that influx doesn’t abate.


So the next time your hiring talent, keep a look out for the divas and knaves – one of these things is not like the other!

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How to Beat Procrastination – Week 2

Last week, we checked out how we can make the benefits of action feel bigger in order to beat procrastination.

This week, we look at how we can make the costs of an action feel smaller:


Identify the first step. Sometimes we’re just daunted by the task we’re avoiding. The trick here is to break down big, amorphous tasks into baby steps that don’t feel as effortful.

Even better: identify the very smallest first step, something that’s so easy that even your present-biased brain can see that the benefits outweigh the costs of effort. So instead of “learn French” you might decide to “email Nicole to ask advice on learning French.”

Tie the first step to a treat. We can make the cost of effort feel even smaller if we link that small step to something we’re actually looking forward to doing.

For example, you might allow yourself to read lowbrow magazines or books when you’re at the gym, because the guilty pleasure helps dilute your brain’s perception of the short-term “cost” of exercising. Likewise, you might muster the self-discipline to complete a slippery task if you promise yourself you’ll do it in a nice café with a favorite drink in hand.

Remove the hidden blockage. Sometimes we find ourselves returning to a task repeatedly, still unwilling to take the first step. We hear a little voice in our head saying, “Yeah, good idea, but . . . no.” At this point, we need to ask that voice some questions, to figure out what’s really making it unappealing to take action.

Patiently ask yourself a few “why” questions—“why does it feel tough to do this?” and “why’s that?”—and the blockage can surface quite quickly. Often, the issue is that a perfectly noble competing commitment is undermining your motivation.

Try taking at least one step to make the benefits of action loom larger, and one to make the costs of action feel smaller. Your languishing to-do list will thank you.


For a recap of these steps, visit the Harvard Business Review.

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How to Beat Procrastination – Week 1

Procrastination is the bane of productivity. So, how can you become less myopic about your elusive tasks? It’s all about rebalancing the cost-benefit analysis: make the benefits of action feel bigger, and the costs of action feel smaller.

This week, we look at how we can make the benefits feel bigger and more real:


Visualize how great it will be to get it done. Researchers have discovered that people are more likely to save for their future retirement if they’re shown digitally aged photographs of themselves. Why? Because it makes their future self-feel more real—making the future benefits of saving also feel more weighty.

So if there’s a call you’re avoiding or an email you’re putting off, give your brain a helping hand by imagining the virtuous sense of satisfaction you’ll have once it’s done—and perhaps also the look of relief on someone’s face as they get from you what they needed.

Pre-commit, publicly. Telling people that we’re going to get something done can powerfully amplify the appeal of actually taking action, because our brain’s reward system is so highly responsive to our social standing.

So by daring to say “I’ll send you the report by the end of the day” we add social benefits to following through on our promise—which can be just enough to nudge us to bite the bullet.

Confront the downside of inaction. Research has found that we’re strangely averse to properly evaluating the status quo. While we might weigh the pros and cons of doing something new, we far less often consider the pros and cons of not doing that thing. Known as omission bias, this often leads us to ignore some obvious benefits of getting stuff done.


You can follow these 3 steps to make the benefits of doing a task more real and get stuff done!

Next week, we’ll look into how we can make the costs of an action seem smaller.

We got this from the Harvard Business Review, visit them for more like this.

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If You’re Not Outside Your Comfort Zone, You Won’t Learn Anything

Public speaking, networking and speaking up at meetings. What do these 3 things have in common? They are all personally terrifying for many people, but professionally important.

This week we look at how important it is to walk outside our comfort zones when looking for personal growth:


You need to speak in public, but your knees buckle even before you reach the podium. You want to expand your network, but you’d rather swallow nails than make small talk with strangers. An easy response to these situations is avoidance. Who wants to feel anxious when you don’t have to?

But the problem, of course, is that these tasks aren’t just unpleasant; they’re also necessary. As we grow and learn in our jobs and in our careers, we’re constantly faced with situations where we need to adapt our behavior. And without the skill and courage to take the leap, we can miss out on important opportunities for advancement. How can we as professionals stop building our lives around avoiding these unpleasant, but professionally beneficial, tasks?

First, be honest with yourself. Take an inventory of the excuses you tend to make about avoiding situations outside your comfort zone and ask yourself if they are truly legitimate. If someone else offered you those same excuses about their behavior, would you see these as excuses or legitimate reasons to decline? The answer isn’t always clear, but you’ll never be able to overcome inaction without being honest about your motives in the first place.

Then, make the behavior your own. Very few people struggle in every single version of a formidable work situation. You might have a hard time making small talk generally, but find it easier if the topic is something you know a lot about. We can often find a way to tweak what we have to do to make it palatable enough to perform by sculpting situations in a way that minimizes discomfort.

Finally, take the plunge. In order to step outside your comfort zone, you have to do it, even if it’s uncomfortable. Put mechanisms in place that will force you to dive in, and you might discover that what you initially feared isn’t as bad as you thought.

Start with small steps. Instead of jumping right into speaking at an industry event, sign up for a public speaking class. You may stumble, but that’s OK. In fact, it’s the only way you’ll learn, especially if you can appreciate that missteps are an inevitable — and in fact essential — part of the learning process. In the end, even though we might feel powerless in situations outside our comfort zone, we have more power than we think.


So, give it a go. Be honest with yourself, make the behavior your own, and take the plunge.

Visit the Harvard Business Review for more like this and beyond!

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The Global Economy in February

Global markets in February were characterised by the – sometimes uncertain – policies of the Trump administration’s first month in office, the chances of the US Federal Reserve (Fed) hiking rates in March and the surge in foreign inflows to Emerging Markets (EMs). The US equity rally stalled initially on fears the administration was losing focus on the promised tax cuts and fiscal stimulus which drove the post-election rally. The President’s March 1st speech to Congress allayed these fears somewhat but finer details are yet to emerge.

For most of February the market seemed to price in a less than 50% chance of the Fed hiking rates in March, mainly due to 2016 record of constant postponement of rate hikes due to external risks, like Brexit. But with Fed officials speaking confidently about a hike, driven by a better global outlook, those chances have been increased to around 80%.

Despite speculations over Fed rate hikes, February saw a continuing surge in foreign inflows to EM stocks and debt. According to data from the Institute for International Finance (IIF), which tracks capital flows, February saw $17bn, in cross-border flows to EM assets with $6.2bn going to equities and $10.9bn to bonds. Analysts say that foreign funds have been attracted mainly to Asian economies with healthy current account surpluses and foreign exchange reserves. The inflows have been aided by a weakening of the US dollar from its post-election highs, partly due to uncertainty over Trump administration policies.

Meanwhile, Europe saw market jitters over the increasing chances of populist Marine Le Pen winning the French presidential elections, due to a series of unexpected events that have affected the mainstream candidates. Chief among these was the nepotism scandal involving centre-right candidate Francois Fillon and his wife. The concerns surrounding Le Pen is that she promises to remove France from the EU, institute a new French currency and redenominate French debt in this new currency. Thus, European debt markets have been jittery, with concerns of a rekindling Greek debt crisis and uncertainty in Italian politics adding in.

Oil prices were largely range bound in the mid-$50s. Price movements within the range were prompted by confirmation of a 90% compliance rate with the OPEC output limitation agreement and rising US shale oil output. Data has shown that the number of shale oil rigs is on the rise and the supply glut is persistent with record US crude oil stockpiles recorded in the month. Last week saw market concern over data showing Russia’s compliance to output limitation amounting to only a third of its promised 300,000 barrels per day.

Want to Be More Productive? Sit Next to Someone Who Is

Employers and employees alike are constantly looking for ways to improve productivity. But the answer could be much simpler than one might think.

This week, we look at how better seating arrangements can help increase productivity:


To increase worker performance, employers often invest in a number of things, from rewards and incentives to education and training. These traditional approaches develop employees’ skills and enrich their work experience. But we discovered a surprisingly simple way to increase productivity, one that was low-cost and had immediate impact: better office seating arrangements.

For every performance measure, we looked at “spillover,” a measure of the impact that office neighbors had on an employee’s performance.

We saw that neighbors have a significant impact on an employee’s performance, and it can be either positive or negative. In terms of magnitude, we found that approximately 10% of a worker’s performance spills over to her neighbors.

We categorized workers into three types: productive workers, who completed tasks quickly but lacked quality; quality workers, who produced superior work but did so slowly; and generalists, who were average across both dimensions.

In our sample, where groups of workers were clustered together, we found that the best seating arrangements had productive and quality employees sitting beside each other, because each helped the other improve. There was a spillover effect on both workers’ areas of weakness: A quality worker tried to match the speed of a productive worker, while the productive worker tried to improve their work quality.

An interesting finding, for this particular technology firm, is that workers who were strong on one dimension (task quality or task speed) tended not to be sensitive to spillover on that dimension, while workers who were weak on that dimension were sensitive to spillover. This is why putting a fast worker next to a slow worker tends to speed up the slow worker instead of slowing down the fast worker.

We found that these effects occurred almost immediately but vanished within two months. This suggests that, instead of employees learning from one another, which would likely take some time, the effects were driven by a combination of inspiration and/or peer pressure from sitting near high-performing workers. Of course, we could not distinguish which factors truly drove the effect.

Our study leads us to believe that better spatial management of workers can enhance individual and team performance. But managers need to first look at employees’ performance and see where they would want spillover to occur.


Identifying what spillover effects you need and the right seating arrangements to make it happen could be the productivity “hack” you’ve been looking for!

For more like this, visit the Harvard Business Review.

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