The premise of this article I agree with. Overall it’s a great article. But this one line is categorically false.
The reality is that history is littered with the efforts and skills of people who delivered incredible amounts of great stuff, but never got recognised for it. The reason comes in many forms including but not limited to:
- Corporate plagiarism, as encouraged in many corporate environments, especially many of those in consultancy.
- Capable individuals were afraid to ask for simple things like testimonials.
- Peers were afraid of the average skillset of the individuals in question, as that made them look poorer quality, or indeed, didn’t acknowledge that their own team’s work was almost entirely predicated on the work of one individual, rightly or wrongly.
- Deliberate sabotage. Again existing a lot in some consultancy environments. Threats and verbal aggression are directed towards hyper-competent staff who are less vocal and confident, despite them shoring up the entire partner remit. Reviews are gamed To keep the individual in their post, by reducing scoring numbers or submitting poorer reviews than the individual should get, as it’s well known by the reviewer they can’t be promoted, otherwise they can’t replace them. This means the most capable members of that environment are also unfairly given some of the worst historical records despite being central to those organisations.
Here in the UK, everything from the recruitment process to the procurement process is fundamentally broken. Our record on recruitment is horrific on a number of fronts. CVs in technical roles are one of the worst possible means of recruiting individuals, as the disparity between what’s on a CV and what they can do is high. Additionally, the recruitment industry has 3 laws specifically to constraint their often inhumane and prejudicial treatment of work seekers, which they pay lip service to, yet they dominate ‘first gate’ channels into organisations, cutting out people who are bad candidates (cool, that’s fine) but also those who are extremely competent, as its impossible to evaluate them. This is made worse because some companies don’t know of a better way or have a naive view that agencies add value (until they then get to be one of the 70% of clients who then realise they don’t having used them). This is almost always because recruitment agents themselves are either incredibly negligent or malicious, but sell crud extremely well and companies, constrained by time and delivery pressures, buy it.
In order to be successful, your product, service, skills etc. Have to apply to the masses. After all, if your super intelligent and insightful skillset can only be understood by 1% of the whole market, let alone the wider community, you already have a glass ceiling. Attention spans being shorter than ever mean you’ll never get the necessary steps in to get your target audience to bridge to where you are, or where you add value. It’s impossible in that time. It’s cat memes versus autonomous cars.
A topical example is the excitement around gravitational waves this week. Einstein’s predictions of these waves came approximately 60 years ago. However, I’m willing to wager that despite the extremely high profile nature of the discovery, 99% of viewers couldn’t explain it and 99.99% of those that can, couldn’t write down the relevant equations, nor a ‘number of nines’ of them, formulate the proof itself. So assuming Einstein wasn’t so popular, who can shout about what Einstein did for him now he’s dead? In those outlier positions, people capable of being the first follower come along extremely infrequently and are themselves of a relatively low market ‘viral coefficient’, and bills still need to be paid in the meantime.
So, whilst I like the article, I’d love a meritocratic utopia more than anyone, nobody can promise success will come. Indeed, the more capable you are, the less likely it is to happen.