This is the start of a computer game the consultancy is testing as it tries to lure clever, tech-savvy people from beyond its traditional Ivy League business school hunting grounds.
I learnt this a couple of weeks ago when I bumped into a consultant who knew about it. How odd, I thought, wondering if McKinsey would ever let me have a play. The other day, they did, though I was soon wishing they had not.
But as the laptop whirred to life so I could try it for myself, a familiar sinking feeling formed. It was a sensation I had not felt since I last applied for a job at a new company more than 15 years ago: interview dread.
Distant, deeply repressed memories of spluttering my way through a painful newspaper interview came flooding back as the McKinsey people silently watched me peck away at the keyboard.
The game was no Grand Theft Auto. First, I had to figure out how to build a healthy coral reef, which is harder than it sounds, even when you are told which fish and corals do best at what water depths. Then I had to save a flock of birds from some hideous virus.
I don’t think my reef was a total embarrassment. But as the minutes ticked by while I tried to calculate the best vaccine microdoses for the stricken birds, all I seemed to be creating was a pile of tiny corpses.
Someone politely muttered that no candidate would be ruled out by the game. Before I could comprehensively demonstrate I was not McKinsey material, I decided to call it a day.
Allowing for the fact that I am not the target audience, I’m not sure what the average candidate would make of the game. I suspect a lot would enjoy it.
Yet it raises a wider question about the way workers might soon be hired.
They suggested people’s lives would no longer be ruled by the three stages of education, work and retirement. Faced with the need to keep hobbling in to work into their 80s in an age of rising disruption, they would probably have to take a break to retrain and reinvent themselves. I like the idea they might do a very different type of job interview as well.
McKinsey is right to be testing her ideas but it should not stop there. We all need to know how these theories really work in practice.
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