The SpaceX CEO Elon Musk personally interviewed its first one thousand workers during the early years of starting the company. The people whom he was asking the question included janitors and technicians of the company. The famous riddle he was asking everyone was
While standing on the surface of the earth, you walk one mile south, one mile west and one mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?
The first common response of the riddle is which most engineers guessed correctly if the North Pole. After starting from the North Pole and going one mile south then one mile west and then finally one mile north, an individual will make a triangular path and will end up back at the North Pole.
Another answer to the riddle is the South Pole where the earth has a one mile circumference. By walking one mile south to reach this circle, trace that mile-long circle’s path, and return one mile north to your starting point. This answer was given by very few engineers. In order to know the responses of the common people, this question was asked to accountants, students, actors, nurses etc. But only one person gave the correct answer.
Elon Musk didn’t focus on whether he was given the right answer; he used the responses of his people to analyze how they process the information and approach problem solving. With SpaceX’s mission to send humans to Mars, employees must be able to find solutions to problems they come across.
The recruiting problem has been discussed by Elon Musk before and while speaking to the World Government Summit in Dubai last year, that while interviewing candidates, he also asked them what were the most difficult problems they faced and how did they get them solved.
With the responses, Musk was able to tell that whether the applicant took the ownership of a project’s problems and solutions or they are just member of a large team.