From my many classes and many students that have passed through my classrooms there is always one recurring thing that I see in people. This I call the IT X factor, I am yet to put my finger on exactly what it is or what causes it, but it seems it cannot be taught only leveraged in the classroom. There are 3 kinds of people within the world when it comes to technology.
This group of people I would say are comprised more from the older than younger generation of people. They actively go out of their way to avoid technology invading into their everyday lives and have no desire to wish to expand any knowledge into the field. Technology, from the use of the internet to the mobile phone is seen as more of a hindrance to everyday life rather than something to be used to improve it.
This group could include both the younger and older generation of the age spectrum. They have an active interest in technology and technological development, the latest mobile phone or gadget is seen as a social statement. An item to show off to your friends with. There is no fear of the technology and no fear of pressing a button to see what it does. There is though, no X factor in the understanding of the technology. Within the IT space this is one of the most problematic day to day users that will be encountered because of the lack of fear. Very quickly this group will find itself out of its depth in the problems caused from exploration into software or hardware without a logical method for exploring. Inevitably the X-factor group will be consulted.
The X factor group
This group has something embedded and inherent in their understanding of anything with an on switch. Most often you see this group as the more outstanding members of the IT scene. It is hard to describe what makes up this kind of person yet we all know them. They are the people you can give a brand new piece of software or hardware and without any previous knowledge, understanding, or manual. Every button will get pressed, all options will be checked and unchecked and to draw more of a parallel with the Borg from Star Trek than a typical user the new technology will be 'assimilated'.
The X factor are the people you want working in your IT dept, they are the ones that are going to go far in the IT industry. The sign of a good tech person is not how may qualification they have strung to to their CV or if they can throw you out the OSI model from the top of their head but the method of problem solving. There is simply too much within IT to remember, you cannot possible know all the powershell commands from the top of your head or every possible option within the Microsoft Office suite. Many times I have seen when a user calls a Service Desk or a desktop support line, the technician has little or no knowledge of the software package the user is having the problem with but is expected to be able to fix any problem no matter how obscure that may be occurring. This is when they will draw upon their X factor. Clicking everything at random to see what it does, making mental notes and a mental map of the software as they go along. Taking in the cause and effect of an action.
If we are interviewing for a technical position this is what we need to look for rather than the ability to parrot lists and list of information that will benefit only with tests related to qualifications. We need a method for identifying this X factor. A device to filter it out. Something small, battery powered and something that you can use effectively within an interview scenario. Not a puzzle as such, but a device that need to be identified, analysed and configured to produce a result with no prior knowledge of what the result is that they are working towards. A black box test if you will.