Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap tell the story of how Jack Hanley, the CEO of Monsanto, hired Howard Schneiderman, the Dean of Biological Sciences at the University of California, to head up Monsanto’s new life sciences business. As part of the job interview Hanley asked a question which was deliberately outside Schneiderman’s area of expertise:
“We’re about to make a big investment in a silicon plant in the United States. Is silicon the material of choice for the semiconductors of the future?”
“Well, if I had one day [to answer the question], I would call up the top biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whom I know, and would ask to be introduced in a telephone conference call to the top materials scientist at MIT. Then I’d pose the question to that person and ask him to think about. I’d tell him: ‘I’d be happy to give you $2,000 for an answer, and I’ll call you back tomorrow.’ I figured that guy would get on the telephone, and he would ask colleagues and in twenty-four hours, I could give Hanley a reasonable answer, although it wouldn’t be perfect.
He got the job.
This story illustrates a number of interesting expertise location features:
Dodds, P. S., Muhamad, R., & Watts, D. J. 2003. An experimental study of search in global social networks. Science, 301: 827-829.
Leonard, D. & Swap, W. 2005. Deep Smarts: How to Cultivate and Transfer Enduring Business Wisdom. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
About Shawn Callahan
Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:
Send this to a friend