Why you should promote people randomly

A new study indicates hiring top performers on a competitive basis often backfires.

by Stephen Jones

The Volkswagen’s emissions fix, FIFA’s World Cup bribery case and Goldman Sachs’s 1MDB scandal are some of the more recent reminders of what can happen when organisations allow hubris to run riot, resulting in criminal charges, billion dollar fines and uncountable reputational damage. 

In a newly published study, a team of Swiss and German researchers have identified a potential solution that could help businesses avoid hubristic bosses: using a partly randomised process to select them. 

Companies usually tend to favour what the researchers term “competitive methods”, based on promoting the best performing or seemingly most competent candidate. The researchers wanted to understand how appointing leaders randomly affected their performance.

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