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!