We want to excel, to succeed, we want to continue to adapt to the changing conditions around us. But, statistically speaking, we are average. How can we overcome the contradiction?
If you feel that you are smarter than the average in a particular group, you are probably wrong. This common condition is called superiority bias, and it is not one of the worst. We are all multi-dimensional people. There are so many ways that you can be seen and recognized objectively to be above average; you just have to realize that, on average, you are average. So how can you excel as an individual? You also have to realize that it is impossible to excel all around, across so many different parameters, so you have to pick the battles that you can win.
Organizations have the same problem constantly, both internally and externally. Observers will want to be able to conclude that the organization is improving and is beating its competition, but if you look over a certain period in a particular industry, you’ll see that it will have an average rating, and the likelihood that a particular organization in that group is average is statistically very high. You also have to consider that organizations tend to become more and more risk-averse, especially if they have been successful and achieved a certain position in their industry.
How can an organization avoid being seen as tending towards mediocrity? It is an effort in maintaining and improving company culture, it is an effort in allowing people to improve themselves by letting them learn, making them eager to learn. It is an effort in setting bars of objectives higher, constantly restructuring the organization as needed to make sure that it can achieve the harder objectives.
Being able to understand the origins of mediocrity whether in an organization or ourselves, is the first step to be able to recognize how we can improve and to what extent we can improve, understanding also the limits of this ability, and understanding how we can reach a life worth living and an organization that is generative, that contributes to a society, that makes this world a better place to be in and to thrive.