Thursday, May 22, 2014

Conformiocrity

I have often railed against living lives of mediocrity.  

To achieve “average” status, the only thing required of us is to keep breathing.  To pursue, or simply meander toward, mediocrity (either by acts omission or commission) seems inane, if not downright insane.  To live consequential lives is within the reach of each one of us, regardless of our station in life.

From a leadership perspective, there is a similar mindset of organizational mediocrity.  If we preach, incentivize, and promote conformity in our organization, we are essentially encouraging a race to the bottom – 
to the bottom of effort, 
to the bottom of creativity, 
to the bottom of risk-taking, 
to the bottom of innovation, 
to the bottom of performance. 

In A Brief History of Everything, Ken Wilber (2000) asserts that every group of people (e.g., families, churches, schools, businesses, nations) has a “cultural average.”   Wilber suggests that the "culture" of a people-group is simply the mean of the their beliefs, values, mores, and behavioral norms.  If we accept his argument, then that implies that about half the folks in the people-group (for instance, your softball team), think, live, and behave in ways that "exceed" the cultural average.  And, of course, about half think, live, and behave in ways that are less than representative of that cultural average.

Hold that idea in your mind as we go back to the leadership implications:  Leaders of people-groups (whether ski clubs, Sunday school classes, or unions) must find ways to raise the cultural average.  I'll let you think about the concrete steps that can be taken to affect that raising (for they are legion).


Hint:  Shared organizational goals should be the driver.  Not shared protocols, procedures, haircuts, etc.  Unless, of course, conformity and mediocrity are your desired outcomes.

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