Hiring the Learn-It-Alls
by Shawn Shepard, Esq.
Smith & Carson recently celebrated its fortieth anniversary, and we’re proud of that accomplishment. As you might expect, we’ve developed a lot of expertise in forty years. But I think every one of us at Smith & Carson understands that just because we’ve become the experts doesn’t mean we’ve reached the pinnacle. There’s always more to learn. There’s always room to grow. It’s a philosophy we have as a company, and it’s an attitude we share as individuals.
That’s the great thing about working with this crack team of researchers, former law enforcement officers, and legal professionals—we have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. In the book Scalia Speaks, Christopher Scalia, son of the late United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, recalls the excitement his father felt while conducting legal research. Justice Scalia noted that “the process of looking for that answer, the process of research, is a process that stimulates the mind. New analogies occur, new avenues of inquiry come to mind, new insights are afforded.” So too is the process of conducting a factual investigation. Often, I describe what we do at Smith & Carson as putting together a puzzle. And many times, either because we have too little information at the start or because we have too much, we’re solving a mystery to even get to that puzzle. For us, it’s the day-to-day of converting mysteries into puzzles and aligning the pieces of those puzzles that’s inspiring.
To do this kind of work, you have to be a naturally curious kind of person. You have to be fascinated by the human condition, and you have to know a little bit about a lot of different things. While writing an investigative report, I once drew on my vague recollection of the name of the company at the heart of the Martha Stewart insider-trading scandal. In another investigation, my law school understanding of California community property law came into play. It doesn’t hurt that I keep up with current events, know my way around a trial court, and have incorporated a business or two. Having that knowledge helps me discover connections that someone without the same experience might not see.
And if I don’t already know about a subject, I want to find out. Last year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told Business Insider that as a matter of corporate culture, he wanted Microsoft and its employees to be a “learn-it-all” organization rather than a “know-it-all” one. He borrowed the idea from the work of Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist who wrote the book Mindset. Dweck advocates for fostering a growth mindset in which success, whether in school, sports, or business, comes not from intelligence and talent alone, but from the expenditure of effort and an earnest desire to learn.
The desire to learn and the quest for new insights at Smith & Carson extends not only to the production of our investigations, but also to our investigative processes. Larry Carson, the company’s founder and chief executive officer, is always searching for new and better ways to find information and communicate those findings to our clients. Technological advances, including online data collection, pervasive social media use, and artificial intelligence, are changing the way investigations are conducted, and the learn-it-alls not only adapt to those changes, but seek ways to leverage them for the future.
So, what you’ll discover if you work with us is that we know where to find information and how to interpret it because we’ve been honing the practice for four decades and we’re a multidiscipline team of investigators with rich background experiences. But we never rest on those laurels. By nature, we’re the learn-it-alls, and being the experts is never going to slow us down.