September 14, 2020

Why Woven Exists

By Wes Winham

I’ve had a passion for picking teams since at least 4th grade dodgeball. Like most playgrounds, the popular kids in Chickasha, Oklahoma usually got picked first.

But I was a socially clueless kid.

Blissfully unaware of the dirty looks sent my way, I picked the smelly kid with the good arm and the tiny, quiet kid that was a dodging savant. Through ignorance of the conventional wisdom, I made better picks. I loved the feeling of being on a winning team.

I started Woven because team quality is the most important part of an organization, whether for dodgeball or the Fortune 500. That makes hiring probably the most important organizational process. That sentiment has been confirmed over and over in conversation this year.

Despite that importance, a 1970’s hiring manager unfrozen today would instantly recognize not only our major movie franchises, but also our hiring process. Online job boards, digital resumes, online multiple choice assessments, and video chat have made existing paper-inspired processes more efficient, eeking out minor improvements. I believe that the addition of digital technology to hiring is experiencing the same productivity paradox that was seen with the addition of electricity to manufacturing. It took 50 years for electricity to actually drive productivity gains relative to steam power.

Incidentally, Email’s 50th birthday is coming up.

Changing Behavior

Steam-powered factories had to be arranged on the logic of the driveshaft. Electricity meant you could organise factories on the logic of a production line.

We had to reorient our factory floors to see the 10x improvements provided by electricity, and we’ll have to reorient our hiring process to reap the 10x improvement that technology + AI-assistance can provide. Just as firms that failed to successfully incorporate electricity were out-competed by those that did, firms that fail to meaningfully incorporate AI-assisted hiring will systematically under-perform.

This trend is already starting to drive a bimodal distribution of between-firm wages, as firms with better hiring predictiveness “skim” the people that drive team success. There are still a lot of digital HR steam engines floating around.

Woven exists to give hiring superpowers to technology leaders and talent acquisition teams. To do that, we’ll need to change behavior in a very risk-averse and fundamentally human process. As if that’s not hard enough, my mission is to change that behavior in a way that facilitates inclusive hiring and acknowledges that teams built of similar members under-perform diverse teams.

Successful humans are “jagged” in their strengths and weaknesses, and AI not designed with that principle in mind can very precisely and very efficiently create under-performing and unjust teams.

Fast and bad is still bad.