The best DARPA program managers are the ones who can look at an entire literature in an area and notice a systemic bias

The quote is people who can get into the trees and still see the forest. This essential but vague attribute of program managers is one of the reasons that The dependence of DARPA on high quality program managers mirrors the obsession with “talent” in other disciplines.

Two questions:

  1. How do you find people who can think like this? (Who will make the best PARPA PMs?)
  2. How could you systematize finding systemic biases in an area?

Finding the sort of person who can find systemic biases in an area:

  • You want someone who has demonstrated expertise in a field, but ins’t acknowledged as an expert in that field. In the parlance of There are secretly three kinds of experts - you want people in circle 1 who do not overlap with people in circle 2 or 3.
  • Someone who again has demonstrated expertise in a domain but is a fringe member/outsider to the institution of that domain
  • Someone who has a track record of noticing systemic biases in areas before. This one feels a little dangerous because in idiosyncratic areas, it feels just as likely that someone who points out problems with everything could just get a few hits.
    All of these attributes emphasize why it is important that DARPA is incredibly flexible with who it hires to be program managers.

Possible systems for finding systemic biases in an area:


Web URL for this note

Comment on this note