Where "Math" Intersects with Recruiting/Sourcing & Weapons Systems, Talent Pools & Terror Cells

Originally posted at my blog here.

Earlier this morning, I stumbled upon an extremely interesting overview of a "Mathematics Event" presentation offered at the 2010 AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). I have to admit personally being a fan of any organization that makes science and math "cool" again, as it was during the "Race to the
" in the 1960s'.

The presentation I found most exciting (particularly from a Recruiting perspective) was titled, "Real Numbers: Mathematical Technologies for Counter-Terrorism and Border Security." Within the overview, it's mentioned that Jonathan Farley (Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria) spoke to how:

... Authorities can use mathematics to "fight smarter, not harder" and that mathematicians are much cheaper than weapons systems."

To distill down to the most salient part of the argument (as it relates to Recruiting, HR, and Talent Acquisition purposes), it was shown how mathematicians can use network analysis technology to map the networks
of terrorists and cells (see image as well, kudos of research by Valdis Krebs, Orgnet):

A terrorist "cell" can be pictured as a graph, with the members as vertices and connections between members expressed as edges. For obvious reasons, cell leaders would like to minimize the number of connections but maximize the chance that the chain of command will survive should
members be captured. Counterrorism agents would like to be able to find those connections in the cell, which, when severed, will disconnect the chain of command from a leader to the foot soldiers. Farley assumed that cells are partially ordered sets (although this may not be the case, he
said that it was a reasonable starting point) and that anti-terrorism experts want to find cut sets so that when the vertices in the set are removed, no maximal chains persist.

ScreenHunter_05 Mar. 03 12.39
For Recruiters, HR, and Talent Acquisition Professionals out there, it is apparent that networks such as the terror cell shown above . . . have more than multiple characteristics in common with talent pools. By targeting or connecting with the right people in the network, we may increase our reach (i.e. extend our ability to connect with a greater number of individuals within the talent pool. Further, we may reduce our network path to the mover and shaker HiPo that we are trying to recruit.)

From a Counter-Terrorism perspective, we target certain nodes (or "cut sets") in an effort to collapse a given terror network. From a Recruiting, HR, and Talent Acquisition perspective, we target given nodes so as to recruit them into our organizations, which may (or may not) yield multiple benefits, including:

  • Enhance our own network; our own ability to deliver on our value proposition.
  • Collapse our competitors' network(s) (albeit over the short term) by hindering their ability to deliver on their own value proposition.

Understandably, sometimes we just want to recruit someone to fill a highly-critical niche role in our organization, but at the 'system' level, there are certainly benefits and risks, payoffs and costs. Whether we acknowledge it or not, each hire we make impacts other networks, sometimes for the better (i.e. our own), sometimes for the
worse (i.e. our competitors'), sometimes for both simultaneously!

When we begin to look at things from a network perspective, not all nodes (people within the network) are created equal. For example, sometimes the worst performer imaginable (i.e. someone we'd never recruit) may
hold a privileged position within the network we're trying to penetrate. While this individual may not offer benefit from a direct perspective (i.e. from a standpoint of "human capital"), they may, in fact, hold tremendous value from an indirect perspective (i.e. from a standpoint of "social capital".) I'd even argue that Sourcing's efforts
to reinvent itself within the Talent Acquisition world today isn't as much about social media expertise as it is about using "Math" itself to drive performance!

I'd like to leave you with the idea that it's not "just all about the Math", however the concept of math itself can be used intelligently, whether we're evaluating collapsing terror networks or penetrating niche talent pools.

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