I use small barriers to avoid kooks
February 17th, 2006 - 9 Comments
The weird thing about getting a little publicity is that you start to get kooks coming out of the woodwork. People write wanting to “collaborate” on something but mostly they just want to get popular without working. The conferences you go to have lots of “independent consultants” offering advice but they are really just unemployed. And if you ever try to hire people, as Whodini so eloquently put it, “the freaks come out at night.” Indeed.
Small barriers matter, and you can use them strategically to weed out wackos. When I speak at conferences or get emails from people who want to work together, I sometimes create a small barrier. “I really like PBWiki,” they might say. “Are you looking for interns?”
Yeah, we are. Before, I used to hand out my card and tell them to get in contact. Maybe 10% would. (This is already a dismal follow-up rate for a group that self-selected themselves to go up and ask for someone’s card.) Now, I hand out my card and tell them this: “Yes, definitely! Here, take my card and get in touch. Just make your own wiki first and then email me. We can talk about what you’d want to improve.”
New response rate? Maybe 2%. When I ask them to do something really trivial (creating a wiki takes 10 seconds), in other words, 80% of the people who used to contact me drop off the face of the earth. But the people who do get in touch are far more interested and better qualified.
Small barriers matter.
The Stanford admissions office is busy every year. With an acceptance rate around 12%, it has lots of tough decisions to make, and it rejects thousands every year (enough valedictorians to fill the freshman class, actually). But it doesn’t have to spend time considering the thousands of students who don’t even bother to apply. I’m talking about the ones who say, “I’m not going to apply there because I could never get in.” Good! Less wasted time! With this in mind, they don’t try and they don’t get in. In fact, they don’t deserve to get in. They just made it easier for Stanford.
Small barriers really matter.
Startups are known to ask applicants what 3 things they would do if they ran the company. After the interview, they tell the applicant to email them tomorrow with their thoughts. Many don’t. They eliminate themselves from consideration. My hiring-manager friends love this. Eliminate the kooks. Keep the hungry ones, the ones who take initiative.
When I wrote about barriers before, it was about how barriers are your enemy. But when you’re on the other side of the table, trying to find good people or partnerships, you can use them to your advantage. Get rid of the barrier-stricken people and find the best. How? Just make them cross a small hurdle.
My previous article: Barriers are your enemy
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