10 August 2007

Systems, Individuals & Real Management

Harvard and Stanford are not really such great universities. If they had to take high school graduates at random, it’s not obvious that they’d do any better with them than other universities. Rather, Harvard and Stanford are able to select exceptionally intelligent and able people. The schools aren’t so very different, but their students are.

And this is our model of management. Find the best people and succeed. We don’t quite know what to do with average people. Yet average is all we have - on average.

History is nothing if not repeated proof that “average” people turn out to be quite extraordinary when their situation, context, and understanding change. The serf of the middle ages has evolved into today’s white collar professional – creating more value in a 40-hour week than the serf could create in a life time.

And this is the challenge of management everywhere – a responsibility not just ignored but unseen: make the system better. Among the many skills this requires, it starts with an acceptance of people for who they are. And perhaps in that way, being a real manager is no different than being a real human being.

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