Wednesday, November 07, 2007

And MORE sports analogies

Steve Dannemann (left), when he finished second in the World Series of Poker in 2005 (and won over $4 million in the process), pronounced himself to be the fourth best player in his home game. When interviewed about it, his usual opponents did not disagree. Yet Dannemann managed to beat more than 5,000 players, including the world's best pros before falling to champion Joseph Hachem.

Dannemann disgusted poker purists when he pulled out a cheat sheet at the final table, reading aloud from the advice he had written for himself before the tournament began (sample entry: HAVE FUN!). The piece of advice that comes to mind at hiring season was something like: "Not calling a big bet might be a small mistake. Calling a big bet and being wrong is a big mistake." If you don't call the big bet and you're wrong, you didn't make money. If you call the big bet and you're wrong, you're broke.

My post the other day about "potential" and Jim's post on Adrian Peterson got me thinking that hiring faculty based on potential is like calling the big bet. If you're wrong (and you don't trust your tenure and promotion process to bail you out if you are -- a discussion for another day) you've made a big mistake. If, by contrast, you pass on the candidate with potential and she goes on to make a name for herself elsewhere, the loss is only the difference between that candidate and the candidate you in fact hired. If you hired a candidate based on proven capacity, the difference should be very small.

But then I'm the fourth best player in my home game.


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