Andre Weil’s Law of Academic Hiring

Following on from my Brains or Money posts, I came across a quote be Andre Weil. After a bit of research I found Patrick Moore‘s page for the Society for a Return to Academic Standards, Little Rock Chapter where he presents Andre Weil’s Law of Academic Hiring

French mathematician Andre Weil once mentioned an unconscious formula that weaker academic departments used when hiring new faculty. He told a fellow mathematician, Paul Halmos, about it and Halmos included Weil’s law in his autobiography. Here is what Halmos says:

“But what do you do when a department [in a university] goes bad? Andr� Weil suggested that there is a logarithmic law at work: first-rate people attract other first-rate people, but second-rate people tend to hire third-raters, and third-rate people hire fifth-raters. If a dean or a president is genuinely interested in building and maintaining a high-quality university (and some of them are), then he must not grant complete self-determination to a second-rate department; he must, instead, use his administrative powers to intervene and set things right. That’s one of the proper functions of deans and presidents, and pity the poor university in which a large proportion of both the faculty and the administration are second-raters; it is doomed to diverge to minus infinity.” (p. 123)

From I Want to Be a Mathematician: An Automathography, by Paul Halmos, Springer-Verlag, New York, 1984.

This doesn’t just apply to academics, it also applies to business, investing and wealth creation. But it doesn’t address how to become a first-rate person.

I’ve studied leadership and a followed and ongoing self-development program. Taking responsibility for my actions and their outcomes whereever possible is another trait I value.

I’d like to believe I’m becoming a first-rate entrepreneur (admittedly with a lot more to learn). But then 90% of people believe their an above average driver. Self-delusion is a comfortable place.

How does Weil’s law deal with Paul Zag’s competing theory of business success.

A successful businesss does not have to do everything with excellence. It just needs to do most things a bit better than the competition and have a passion for the business.

hmm I need to develop these ideas a bit more

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