I recall a client’s words from far enough back that I can only remember that this person was an executive at a utility company. The statement was as follows: “The people we hire are only “C” average students who cannot make strategic decisions on the whole…” This was in response to a recommendation that it would be most valuable if a cross section of the organization was included in the company’s upcoming strategy session. Our team was shocked having seen multitudes of so called “C” students produce brilliant solutions to very complex problems. In enterprise-wide solutions, more is better.
I have obviously not forgotten the statement I heard many years ago and the question that it posed for me: Is a “C” average student capable of only providing “C” average performance, solutions and results? Or is the measure of a person not dependent on the measure of most academic and business organizations?
Malcolm Gladwell, in a recent speech by this noted author of The Tipping Point and Blink, points out that measures are not always a true reflection of an individual’s capabilities. In fact they are a mismatch. He uses data collected from professional sports tryouts called the Scouting “Combine”. This is a process where athletes are put through a battery of tests considered to be the measures that will predict the success of an individual in a professional sport. You may or may not be surprised by his findings, however, his thought provoking conclusions are intriguing and question the very foundations that have supported our progress this far. Find out what the difference is between the seven smartest and seven dumbest quarterbacks in football. Listen to his talk and draw your own conclusions. It is rather lengthy, so you may want to reserve it for a time when you can listen:
This clip takes me back to my earlier experience: The client we had the opportunity to speak with was a leader in the organization. By all standards and measures he was qualified and expected to make decisions and shoulder responsibilities for the whole organization. Utilizing accepted measures and the resulting predictable performance of individuals and the group, he made a statement of objective truth. That this can be only one of many truths and may not be the best is not his fault. He like, many of us, relies on time-tested models, practices and actions. Unfortunately, while our tools for navigation are sound, our changing business and social environment is increasingly exposing our vulnerability to the shifting winds of change. The truth has moved.
In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)
Our attempts to find time and cost saving solutions by identifying key characteristics of high performance people is wanting. Where process and technology can be predictably mapped and measured – the one being only a concept and the other a finite, layered mechanism, with people it is not that predictable. People are both concept and mechanism, and more. We are the author’s of the former two, endowed with additional capabilities who, up to today, have only scratched the surface of our potential. We are all much more capable than our academic grade point average and our professional status.
Given our changing world, how can we find new truths and measures to help us all to create success in our new and changing environment? I welcome your comments.