Staying Relevant by Thinking Disruptively (Guest Post)

By William G. Harris

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The 21st Century is emerging as the age of disruptive thinking.  For some organizations, disruptive thinking sounds ominous, but for others disruptive thinking forms positive, creative, and leading edge images.  By its nature disruptive thinking compels market participants to rethink the way they compete and deliver products and services.   When markets face upheaval from internal or external forces, flexibility, adaptability, and risk-taking behavior are highly prized counterweights.

In the last seventy years the test-publishing marketplace has reached a number of impressive milestones (e.g., Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (2014), the use of technology devices to generate, deliver and score tests, the numerous applications of item response theory (IRT)).  During this period staying relevant meant test publishers moved to a beat that was akin to a classical waltz.  Publishers have generally been late adopters of innovative methods and procedures.   For publishers, the speed of change has occurred at a slower pace than for early adopters.

This “walking pace …” is rooted partially in the nature of employment and education law (especially in Western societies) that guides the use of high-stakes exams, the market’s adherence to well-defined professional test standards, and a clientele reluctant to embrace change.  Admittedly, when change does occur, clients tend to initiate because they perceive a business need that justifies the added cost.   It is less likely for test publishers to move swiftly and independently to take advantage of “out of the ordinary” business opportunities.  This business strategy of “wait and see” is changing.

In today’s fast-paced, “internet of things” world, the strategy of “wait and see” is hazardous, even imprudent.  With publishers handcuffed to traditional assessment processes, startups using “big data with its machine language engines” are creeping into the assessment market space.  A few illustrious examples in the area of HR talent acquisition highlight the creep and the potential for a new wave of competition.

Some early adopters of big data have worked purposefully to transform HR functions with a faster, smarter assessment approach.  They used predictive analytic models to make better human capital decisions and to better understand the makeup of an organization’s workforce.  Essentially, these adopters replaced experience-based with data-driven HR decision-making.

In one example, a financial services company, using predictive analytics software, examined employees after one-year tenure and found the best performers possessed some college experience, but grades and school attended failed to predict job success. By changing its policy to consider any candidate with some college course work completed, the company realized in six months a 4 million dollar saving.

Several startups are focused on the HR needs of the IT and related markets.  Gild describes its approach as one that “uses data science, consumer-friendly technologies, and predictive analytics to bring intelligence to all stages of the hiring process.”  Gild asserts that it redefines the way the world hires and acquires talent.   Gild’s smart hiring platform possesses the capability to hire talent across industries and functions.  This platform provides the tools to evaluate millions of software and development professionals.  It gathers data on a person’s contribution to public and open source communities and his/her work history.  Using proprietary analytics Gild can drive a company’s HR recruitment to “find, nurture, and hire” the right job candidates.

Brilent is also transforming the world of recruitment and hiring.  Brilent’s AI-driven talent acquisition software can identify in real time the highest valued candidates for employment consideration.  With speed as a critical factor in talent acquisition, Brilent’s AI system is potentially indispensable to companies in highly competitive markets.

In a global competition earlier this year, the Brilent AI system outperformed the top HR recruiters.  Brilent took 3.2 seconds to submit its hire recommendations while human recruiters took 4 to 25 hours to submit their recommendations.  As third party providers, these two data science groups as well as other data-driven groups are dramatically altering the practice of HR recruitment and hiring.

Staying relevant means changing; and disruptive thinking provides the impetus for change and relevance.  It is a creative thought process that can power the future of test publishing.  Perhaps, it is time for test publishers to embrace, and more importantly, to harness the power of disruptive thinking.

(The opinions expressed in this blog post belong to the author and do not reflect the view of the ATP.)

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