Mediocrity – and how it happens

By Andrew on 14th February 2017 — 1 min read

Too often we give up fighting for the best possible outcomes. The odds are impossibly stacked against us. Someone or some system of people are in our way – and we learn to pick our battles. Worse than that – we learn how not to fight.

Sadly, this all might start in school, where you are lumped in with too many others with too little freedom – and where bullying of one kind and another is inevitable. Some people rise to the top. Everyone else learns to sit still and quiet.

As adults the mechanics of mediocrity might not be so different. A few regular offenders:

  1. Repeated failures leading to a lack of ambition / vision – no-one wants to bang their head against a wall repeatedly. Ow that hurt – means not doing it again.
  2. Shitting on other people’s ambition – can be well-intentioned (e.g. helping others to avoid the painful failure that you experienced)
  3. Focusing too much on being accepted – we want to be liked more that we want to pioneer new ideas. Towing the line for our bosses approval – seeking friendships on common ground (mostly means accepting the current terms)
  4. Promoting the best doers into management positions – to such an extent that inexperienced people end up doing all the actual work
  5. Too much thought – analysis and self reflection that doesn’t lead to any decision making or action
  6. Not enough thought – proceeding into battle without a sufficiently detailed plan or strategy
  7. Leadership being too authoritarian and prescriptive – leading to low morale / ownership
  8. Leadership being too weak – not showing that vision that others can rally behind whilst still retaining their own identity, creativity and ethics
  9. The incommensurability of values – the right thing to think or do is usually a matter for debate – the loudest or most persistent voice wins – because we don’t know how to collaborate – to draw out the best from one another (this is where the battle against mediocrity should be fought?)

A great deal of this centres around the theme of management for me. What makes a good design manager?

…Being able to deal with the list above might be a good place to start.

Posted in: Design thinking

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