Beating the Mean !

05 Oct

I was at a seminar couple of days back and one of the things that the speaker stressed a lot for companies to succeed was the paradigm, “Beat the Mean!”. As we all know, when Microsoft was started, they had only 4 people and each one of them were extremely smart people and the average IQ of the company was extremely large when compared to most companies. As companies grow, the average IQ drops down owing mainly to the size of the company. As long as a company can keep their average IQ to not drop significantly and consciously focus in maintaining it, the company wouldnt fail. That was the speaker’s claim. When the average IQ reaches the IQ of the average population, he claimed that the company would certainly fail. Though I have my own set of arguments on the theory, on a large scale, it makes sense. I think the same could be applied to individuals.

As we undertake more and more tasks, it is possible that our average performance might come down. It recursively applies to the subtasks that we perform as well. For example, in the case of long distance running, I figured that, running at a slow pace in the beginning and a higher pace towards the end or vice versa will have the same effect as running at the average pace throughout the course. Infact, the simple truth is if I improve on my average pace, my overall performance can be tremendously improved.

I think there are 2 ways to improve the “mean” performance. Either, you drop some of the underperforming areas or areas that one doesnt like to pursue. In the company sense, this would probably mean shutting down the businesses that doesnt fetch money (much like what GE Welch did). The other way is to consciously question the mean effort needed to complete a task and try to improve on that. In real life, I think this can also be looked at from a consistency perspective. As long as one does a certain activity consistently, on an average, they become the person they want to be. So, the real secret lies in not improving one’s peak performance, but the average performance!


Posted by on October 5, 2006 in From AM-KICKING blog


10 responses to “Beating the Mean !

  1. Injikadan Mathai

    October 5, 2006 at 10:40 pm

    very interesting blog mindframes…one confusion to me is in terms of the difference between peak performance and average performance…would it be correct if i say that for an average to exist we need a high and low…for instance let us take the case of repeated measures…say we run two at 10 miles an hour and the other at 20 miles an hour…therefore the average would be 15 miles an hour…now work backwards…to achieve an average of 15 miles an hour to say 20 miles an hour you need a sum total of 40 miles for the two races…therefore if you performed at your peak in both races, you have managed to improve ur average performance…does this not tell us that what me might want to concentrate on is improve our poor performance and trying to match that with consistent high performance in both rounds…therefore i was kind of thinking that an improvement in average performance is a mechanical artecraft of arithmetic…what we need to really improve is either increase the peak performance or improve on the poor performance…whats ur opinion abt that???

  2. Survivor

    October 6, 2006 at 12:52 am

    Aren’t u trying to say the same thing as Mindframes.
    Goal: Improve average performance
    Means: Improve peak and poor performances.

    In other words, from my perspective,what Mindframes is trying to say is.. if you have some strength ,(peak) improve it further and if you have some weakness, improve it, if not, ditch it.

  3. Injikadan Mathai

    October 6, 2006 at 2:08 am

    @ Survivor: hmm no i dont think i’m trying to say the same thing…what i’m looking at is the direction of causation…the average is a function of the hi and the low but the hi and the low are not a function of the average…therefore the inference might be the same but the direction of causality is important..

    BTW: ur second paragraph is exactly in line with what i’m thinking…and its quite possible that i mis understood what mindframes was trying to communicate…

  4. Mindframes

    October 6, 2006 at 2:11 am

    MadMax: I understand what you are saying. But, when I mean average performance, I mean what survivor says. If your peak performance is consistent, it becomes your average performance, in my opinion. In the running case, it has a slight twist. When you run faster, you get tired faster and eventually start running slowly. In that case, if you measure the average speed, you will be better off trying to maintain that average pace throughout the run instead of the fluctuation and improving on that would still achieve the performance you want.

  5. Injikadan Mathai

    October 6, 2006 at 3:21 am

    @ mindframes: thanks for the clarification…interesting blog indeed..

  6. Manohar

    October 6, 2006 at 7:57 am

    To clarify further- When the peak is the average, then the average is at its peak… heh heh couldn’t resit that.

  7. Injikadan Mathai

    October 6, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    @ manohar: lol…engayooo poiteengaaaa…

  8. BrainWaves

    October 7, 2006 at 7:10 am

    From what I understood,
    Knowing your strengths and being patient to achieve the long term crux of this blog. And it is very true.

    The catch is to know your average(or optimal) performance and maintaining it through out the task.

    We either get over-confident or lose interest.

    You did that in style in long distance running for sure..!

  9. Manohar

    October 7, 2006 at 6:24 pm

    sriks: hear! hear!

  10. bumblebee

    October 8, 2006 at 11:58 pm

    enadhu idhu..meen, mean ingural (From Michael Madhana Kamarajan)

    I also recall the Rabbit and Tortoise story when I was reading about the running etc.

    Interesting blog.


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