Redefine best

This has been going through my mind for a bit now. How do we define who gets the Oscar, who receives the Nobel price and whose pay is raised? The first answer that springs to mind is along the lines of “we select the best, the brightest, the hardest working…” Not a bad criteria, the problem is how we define those things.

For example, who is the best actor? I would think Leo should’ve gotten an Oscar years ago, but other actors beat him to it. Or why did the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet win the Nobel Peace price in 2015, and not the Pope or Angela Merkel or any other candidate. Did they do less? Is the result of their work not admirable enough? Not from my point of view. I think they all deserve recognition.

I don’t want to talk about precisely measurable feats. The athlete that runs the track the fastest deserves the golden medal. I want to talk about the other achievements. So how do we measure such intangible concepts? The sales person who sells the most products gets the bonus. The person who processes the most files gets the pay raise. And the developer who writes the most lines of code, gets to go to the convention.

Wait a moment. Shouldn’t we examine if the salesperson sold goods ethically and didn’t just push the most expensive items on gullible buyers? Shouldn’t we see how difficult the processed files were? And shouldn’t we look at the number of bugs that were found in the code?

For this sort of measurement, I don’t think we have an adequate scale. We can’t accurately measure return customers. It is hard to measure how long a certain file should take to process. And how to put a score on the elegance of a piece of code.

The solution to this, is not to reward the individual, but the team. We shouldn’t compare people to one another, but reward extraordinary quality when we encounter it. It would mean that sometimes multiple Oscars can be awarded, but that no Nobel Prizes could be handed out if there are no people worthy of the prize. For companies, that would mean that if the company is doing well, everybody should profit. And when it goes badly, nobody is rewarded.

In my view, if we want to promote more equality, we need to stop rewarding individual people and put more focus on the teams that work together well.

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