Gates on IQ: Rich Karlgaard, former editor of Forbes ASAP,
reminisces in the WSJ:
through the flight [in 1993], Mr. Gates closed the book, shut his
computer off and we talked. Out of nowhere, he told me that he had
recently figured out who his competition was. It was not Apple, Lotus or
IBM. He waited a couple of beats. "It’s Goldman Sachs."
"Is this a scoop? Is Microsoft getting into investment
"No," he said. "I mean the competition for talent. It’s
all about IQ. You win with IQ. Our only competition for IQ is the top
investment banks." During that trip, I must have heard Mr. Gates
mention "IQ" a hundred times.
The obsession with smarts is embedded deep in Mr. Gates’s thinking and
long ago was institutionalized at Microsoft. Apply for a job and you’ll
face an oral grilling that probes for IQ. It is oral and informal
because of Griggs v. Duke Power, the 1971 Supreme Court ruling that
banished written IQ tests and "tests of an abstract nature"
from job applications. [That’s an overstatement — written IQ tests
can still pass legal muster, but defending them in court against an
anti-discrimination suit is expensive and risky, so many firms encourage
employees to give applicants subjective oral tests instead of objective
written tests — all in the name of being unbiased!] But Microsoft knows
what it wants. It wants IQ. And Microsoft always has been savvy at
getting what it wants.
Or at least it used to be. Today Microsoft is struggling to figure out
what attracts and motivates the most talented employees within
capitalism’s free-agent system. The company had no such problem figuring
that out in the 1980s and ’90s. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer liked to
call the old motivational carrot "The Deal." That arrangement
worked like this: Come and work for Microsoft. Make do with a so-so
salary but partake lavishly of options. Sure, you might be forced to
grind away on 80-hour weeks for six or seven years. But you’ll change
the world and get rich — wildly rich.
Microsoft’s stock has been flat since 1999. The Deal is broken. Not only
that, but most of today’s change-the-world projects in computing live
outside of Microsoft. These include open-source software, search
engines, Web services, Flash video, WiFi, iPods, etc. For reasons of pay
and excitement, Microsoft is losing its grip on a new generation of IQ.
Here’s another quote
from the days when America’s richest man could be more honest. A
November 25, 1996 Fortune article by Randall E. Stross, entitled
"Microsoft’s Big Advantage – Hiring Only the Supersmart,"
featured some surprisingly frank statements by Bill Gates that sound
like The Bell Curve on steroids:
Gates is blunt.
"There is no way of getting around [the fact] that, in terms of IQ,
you’ve got to be very elitist in picking the people who deserve to write
software." … Microsoft could teach its employees in specific
skill areas, but it could not instill intelligence and creativity –
those, Gates said, were "reasonably innate." The best
programmers, in Gates’s view, are people who are "supersmart."
… His self-confessed "bias" in hiring – "toward
intelligence or smartness over anything else, even, in many cases,