Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Ensemble Factor

Apropos of Jim's post on rookie legal academic talent, an underexplored aspect of talent assessment might be called the ensemble factor. A new hire, even a "best athlete," inescapably fits into an existing faculty ensemble. Some candidates present interesting possibilities to change the ensemble for the better. For example, a rookie might be a catalyst, sparking intellectual curiosity (and elevated performance) of veterans. Or, a rookie might serve as a bridge linking the work of two or more veterans who have become isolated from each other and each other's ideas over the years. Hiring the right rookies together can be a boon to the ensemble. When rookies not only like each other but can pool scholarly expertise for their mutual benefit, they quickly and deeply invest in the team. Their connection to each other lowers the risk of attrition and increases the expected value of the team's investment in them. The ensemble factor is sometimes blurred with "curricular fit," wrongly in my view. Curricular fit is but one narrow aspect of the contribution a new hire can make to the ensemble.

The potential for positive ensemble factor is far more complicated to assess than the negative. A jerk is a jerk — no matter how fast or strong he or she might be.


Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

Now that is a handsome group of recruits! At my school we went for the egghead types. You obviously when for beefcake.

2/27/2008 9:55 PM  
Anonymous Ann Bartow said...

Hey Reilly! The South Carolina Ensemble badly misses you. Hope all is well.

2/29/2008 2:43 PM  

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