Mediocrity and Mania.
"Mittelmaß und Wahnsinn" has a few weaknesses (it has some strengths, too). One is that it is available in German only (for now). In order to mitigate that a bit, I'll write a series of posts that provide some impressions. Let's begin with the title. For the alliteration's sake, I would translate it as "Mediocrity and Mania". The gist is that whilst we in our big organisations practice behaviours that border to mania, following an ever accelerating staccato of excellence-rhetoric, the results are largely average. Actually, one train of thought is that this is almost a law of nature for organizations: size creates average ... but this is not today's post's topic.
Above average ... on average
Today, we're quite in the middle of the book, in the chapter "Clone Wars" that tackles the dysfunctions of the rituals we created around "human resource management". We again delve into the middle of this chapter into a dispute about how we measure and guide or force the distribution of performance (human performance) ...
"So we distribute around the mean score. The man or woman assessed is creative but lacks specific expertise, Specialist but with weaker communication skills. Innovative but less efficient. Cost conscious but hardly inspiring. Assertive but not a team player. A good networker but not quite with a killer instinct. ... . The assessment's arithmetic mean over the different dimensions is by default close to one hundred percent.
If you take the system as it is, the top performers are those that are on average above average. The well established instruments -- from recruiting to remuneration -- are designed to move that mean of means upwards. But excellence comes about differently. By no chance we judge the piano virtuoso by his mathematical capabilities and how diligently he tidies his home: piano play 160%, maths 70%, hoovering 70% -- average 100%. By no chance we would judge the pop star by strategic vision and kindliness: singing and dancing 200%, strategy 20%, geniality 20% -- average 80%. ...
True success does not arise from averagely higher-than-average people are working side by side. True success arises through collaboration of people that are highly talented in different areas. This is by the way the essence of what we call diversity today. ..."