Are you smart enough to work at Google?


“Googling” is these days an international pursuit. So much so I am amazed they haven’t made it into a reality games show for TV.

William Poundstone, author of “How would you move Mt. Fuji?” and “Rock Breaks Scissors,” and another 10 similar books, poses questions to see “Are you smart enough to work at Google?” (ISBN 978-0-316-33629-1, Back Bay Books, 2012).

The book deals mainly with the concepts of creativity versus intelligence and author Poundstone states that it has been found that the two are not necessarily compatible. What makes it even harder is that intelligence can be measured, but there is no simple test for creativity. Poundstone writes, “…psychologists usually define creativity as the ability to combine novelty and usefulness in a particular social context.”

In place of simple tick the box multiple choice answers, tests for creativity are not so cut and dried. What is happening is that prospective job applicants are given “impossible” situations and are then expected to come up with “creative” ways to solve the conundrums.

An example, right at the front of the book involves the concept of the applicant being shrunk to the size of a nickel and thrown in a blender which will start in 60 seconds. In that one minute you have to come up with a way to escape being sliced and diced, and be prepared to explain just why your escape is feasible. This is supposed to demonstrate your creativity. The reader is then taken through various possibilities, all of which will have you scratching your head.

Poundstone has a droll sense of humor which come through in the book, such as, “By sheer serendipity one day he strolled past IBM’s Madison Avenue headquarters. It was displaying one of the firms new electronic calculators, a marvel of miniaturization about the size of a Manhattan office,” and another “…company buzz has the same effect that it does on nightclubs. The popular ones are very hard to get into.” I particularly enjoyed his remark that once upon a time Walmart had to hire anyone with a pulse.

The book has a very wide scope, with all types of conundrums (conundra?) being introduced. The history behind the Eureka moment and Archimedes running naked through the streets being an eye-opener for me.

All the way through the book, author Poundstone bombards the reader with different questions, such as how do you work out how much your head weighs with possibilities including submerging your head to work out the density, none of which seems to work.

When you have reached about half way through you are mercifully given ‘creative’ answers, which really means the answer that fits best. If nothing else, this book will help you exercise your brain, which can help stave off Alzheimer’s Disease (we hope).

At B. 330 it was a cheap way for me to find out that I’m not smart enough to work at Google. They aren’t going to fly me to head office for a job interview, as they do with other likely hires. Looks like I’m stuck with Pattaya Mail!