Merit or Relative Age Effect?

From Seth Godin’s blog: The wasteful fraud of sorting for youth meritocracy:

Ask the well-meaning coaches and teachers running the tryouts and choosing who gets to play, ask them who gets on stage and who gets fast tracked, and they’ll explain that life is a meritocracy, and it’s essential to teach kids that they’re about to enter a world where people get picked based on performance.

Or, they might point out that their job is to win, to put on a great show, to entertain the parents with the best performance they can create.

This, all of this, is sort of dangerous, unhelpful and nonsensical.

I explored this in my post, The Great Participation Trophy Debate.

I agree. Most kid sports, even at the beginning levels, is structured to entertain parents, and like it or not, select on ‘merit’ rather than teach the kids and have fun.

As Gladwell points out, this quest for wins really sorts out the relative age effect, rather than true merit.

I wonder how many potential stars — or just run of the mill good players — this chases away before they realize that the primary reason they weren’t as good as their teammates is because their teammates had several crucial months of development on them.

And, the reason they never got much of a chance to develop was because too few youth coaches do their job and give them chances to improve.

Good Advice from Seth Godin

From his post, It’s not about you.

Right in the front row, not four feet from Christian McBride, was every performer’s bête noire. I don’t know why she came to the Blue Note, maybe it was to make her date happy. But she was yawning, checking her watch, looking around the room, fiddling with this and that, doing everything except being engaged in the music.

McBride seemed to be too professional and too experienced to get brought down by her disrespect and disengagement. Here’s what he knew: It wasn’t about him, it wasn’t about the music, it wasn’t a response to what he was creating.

Haters gonna hate.

Shun the non-believers.

Do your work, your best work, the work that matters to you. For some people, you can say, “hey, it’s not for you.” That’s okay. If you try to delight the undelightable, you’ve made yourself miserable for no reason.

It’s sort of silly to make yourself miserable, but at least you ought to reserve it for times when you have a good reason.

Families and Everybody Else

I wonder if Seth Godin has heard of Hayek?

In his blog post, Can I Pay You to Do a Favor? he explains how money doesn’t work that well as a motivator in small groups, but is useful for motivating those outside our small groups to do things for us.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Disagreement and compassion

Seth Godin on ways to disagree with people. He identifies a marketing problem, a political problem and a filtering problem.

I think there is also an identification problem: When someone agrees with you, but won’t admit it because it doesn’t fit in with how they self-identify. But, if I admit that I wouldn’t be in the compassionate crowd, for example.

Steven Landsburg has help for such people. Here’s his response to a commentator on his blog who cares about coffee shop owners on Capitol Hill who are being hurt by the

coffee and tee

In DC or Nebraska? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

shutdown but who must be…

…apparently oblivious to the fact that taxpayers also visit coffee shops, and that for every dime not being spent by a DC bureaucrat, there’s an extra dime available to be spent by a Nebraska farmer or a New York cab driver. Our commenter apparently remembered to care about the guys selling coffee in DC but forgot to care about the guys selling coffee in Nebraska.

The single biggest lesson that economists have to teach is that it’s important to care about everyone, not just about the people who happen to cross your path.

Driving blind

Here’s another good Seth Godin blog post (in its entirety):

Confusing loyalty with silence

Some organizations demand total fealty, and often that means never questioning those in authority.

Those organizations are ultimately doomed.

Respectfully challenging the status quo, combined with relentlessly iterating new ideas is the hallmark of the vibrant tribe.

I’ve worked with leaders who claim they wanted you to challenge them, but beware. While I believe many of them meant it when they said it, when they were actually challenged it was a different story and typically a career-limiting move for the challenger.

I would also add that my experience lines up with Seth’s observation. Those who demanded fealty were doomed.

This is not surprising. As I’ve mentioned before, all problems can be traced to a problem in feedback. Leaders who are not genuinely open to challenge are not open to feedback. It’s like they are driving a bus without the feedback of the seeing the road. Of course, they will eventually drive into the ditch.

Lost in translation

Seth Godin on signals vs. causes. When we simplify the complex world around us, it is easy to mistake a signal for a cause. As Seth G. writes:

People who order wine with dinner might be bigger tippers, but persuading someone to order a bottle probably won’t change the way he tips.

Yet, so much of what we are told to do is based on things like teaching servers how to sell a bottle of wine because folks who order wine are bigger tippers. The world is complex. Sometimes we lose things in translation when trying to understand it.

Here’s another nice example from Godin’s post:

…it turns out that people who eat before bed are believed to gain more weight than those that don’t.

More likely…The kind of person who makes a habit out of eating when bored (just before bed) might very well be the kind of person that has to wrestle with weight.

Wise words from Seth Godin

I agree with what Seth wrote in this blog post:

You can’t argue with success…

Of course you can. What else are you going to argue with? Failure can’t argue with you, because it knows that it didn’t work.

The art of staying successful is in being open to having the argument. Great organizations fail precisely because they refuse to do this.

Too much education?

The local newspaper recently published a letter to its editor from a teenager complaining about her homework load.  Four hours of homework along with extracurricular activities and volunteer requirements is stressing her out and doesn’t leave her time to have a job, so she wrote.

Most of the online comments to her letter were of the “life’s tough kid” type.

But, I happen to agree with this whiner.

In this post, I suggested one reason the average age at which folks made significant contributions to their respective fields had increased over the last 100 years is because we’ve occupied more of their time with expanded education requirements.

Maybe a broad education, high extracurricular involvement and volunteerism is good.  But, there may be costs too.  I can think of couple costs.

One cost is innovation.  We train the initiative and self-direction out of folks by laying out the steps for them.  As Seth Godin pointed out (see this blog post), our education model churns out “predictable, testable and mediocre factory workers,” rather than folks inclined to discover the next Google or Facebook.

Another cost is maturity and experience.  We insulate and delay students from the harsh realities of the real world — like having to make a tough choice between work or playing sports, spending on a budget, coping with failures and setbacks and figuring out how to  produce something others value.

I read that companies say that college hasn’t prepared students for the work force.  Maybe.  Or maybe the students have been kept so busy with the curriculum and extracurricular activities that they haven’t accumulated as much work experience as previous generations had by the same age.

I wonder how many folks get their first significant job after they graduate from college.  Or, more importantly, how many years of (any) work experience the typical new college grad has now compared to 30 years ago.  How many folks are learning key work lessons — like the importance of a well-groomed appearance, showing up on time and meeting deadlines — at 25 years of age instead of 15?

The Other Seth on the Kindle

Seth Godin has some wonderful ideas about what the Kindle should do to beat back iPad.    But, I have news for Seth.  Even a $49 or free Kindle isn’t going to beat the iPad.

Kindle was an awesome product. But, from what I can tell, the iPad is that much better.  The price is relatively immaterial.  Why have two devices that do about the same thing, but one does it much better?

Kindle may be able to occupy a profitable niche for book-0-philes, but unless it pulls an HTC leap in product development, it’s going to lose to iPad.

Kindle is a sunk cost. My guess (and as always, I could be wrong) is that Amazon would better off tying in with the iPad early before Apple’s iBookstore starts taking a chunk of their business.

I wish both devices would support pdf’s better.

Good Nuggets from Another Seth

Seth Godin is interesting.  That’s why I like to read his blog.

Good Nugget #1Who judges your work?

The ability to choose who judges your work–the people who will make it better, use it and reward you–is the key building block in becoming an artist in whatever you do.

Bad judgment is why so many businesses and products fail.  Too often we think in all-or-nothing terms when thinking of solutions.  For example, “this idea will solve the problem for everybody, or it will solve the problem for nobody.”  Instead we should be thinking of who will it solve the problem for and why.

The best laid plans often fail because the wrong people have judged them.

I learned long ago that when someone comes to me for advice on whether and idea will work or not, to have an open mind because I don’t know.  I’ve seen stuff that I never thought would be successful become successful, and sure winners die in the market.

Even when I try to make the judgment for myself (for example, answering the questions, “would I buy this?”), I’m often wrong.  Something that I never thought I’d want turns out to be something that I find very useful.

My advice is to keep an open-mind, try to understand the true value proposition as best as possible and then try to learn as much as possible for real world market results.

Good Nugget #2: The coming melt-down in higher education (as seen by a marketer)

Back before the digital revolution, access to information was an issue. The size of the library mattered. One reason to go to college was to get access. Today, that access is worth a lot less. The valuable things people take away from college are interactions with great minds (usually professors who actually teach and actually care) and non-class activities that shape them as people. The question I’d ask: is the money that mass-marketing colleges are spending on marketing themselves and scaling themselves well spent? Are they organizing for changing lives or for ranking high? Does NYU have to get so much bigger? Why?

This post goes along with my prior posts on education and why college degrees are becoming worth less.