Selection Update: The Love Patent

February 7, 2008

A few months ago, the press reported on a system being developed at the University of Calgary called ‘Synthetic Validity’. The system promises a universal selection system for all jobs at all levels. As I am always interested in job-simplifying panaceas, I looked into it, and while it may have some promise, it appears to be a giant shared database of competencies which is a long way from selection prime time, at least in the search world.

What was more interesting is that the researcher suggested that his system could be applied in other domains concerned with ‘fit’ including the dating industry which was termed ‘sophisticated’. The online dating industry is a $1bb per year sector where companies such as Perfect Match, Chemistry, and Yahoo Personals compete using armies of experts dissecting every aspect of human chemistry from the initial ‘spark’ at the outset a relationship to the factors contributing to lifelong marital bliss. Just a few years ago market leader eHarmony shook up the sector by actually securing a patent for a technology that ‘predicts with an over 90% likelihood that its couples will end up in the top quartile of the Dyadic adjustment Scale’ Though I have no idea what that means I take it to be very good.

Given estimates that as many as 45% of all marriages fail, the online dating sector’s commitment to transform the ‘je ne sais quoi’ of human fit to a science of equations and databases holds huge promise for the organizational arena. As a result, I decided to look at how the firm with the ‘love patent’ applies its tools to itself. eHarmony’s web site speaks to a firm committed to excellence in attracting, retaining and even motivating staff. Their mission statement refers to building lifelong relationships and organizational ‘soul mates’. As I dug deeper, there are even news releases trumpeting their employee successes, many made possible presumably by their scientifically proven techniques.

Unfortunately, the firm’s web site also catalogues press releases going back several years. In looking through these it appears that the firm has had at least three CEO changes in the past 18 months referring to ‘poor fit’ in at least one of the failures. Oh well, perhaps the love patent has a ways to go before it is ready for selection prime time…