In another conversation with the wisest gentleman I’ve ever met, he expounded on a blind spot of society. This time he kind of made my head spin. And I write this post with great hesitation. He uncovered a societal motive that is intended to be in the best interest of all. However, it has done more harm than good. The challenge, he said, is to undo a wrong which is believed to be right.
He started the conversation by discussing how this mentality works in a corporation. In his example, he stated the following: in any enterprise there can behigh performers, average performers and underperformers. With good intentions, management does its best to reform the underperformers. Management often believes if they could change the poor performance of employees, they can increase performance of a team or enterprise. Except, this strategy tends to have the opposite effect.
While management is focusing on fixing underperformers, they are neglecting high performers. In some cases, common sense says the high performers are smart and independent and do not require handholding. That creates an unspoken policy that says: if you want attention, don’t perform well. Simultaneously, it tells high performers that they are not worth the time and effort of management. There can be a number of outcomes with that approach. One, high performers leave. Two, high performers decrease their effort.
If you think about it, starting at the bottom and attempting to work your way up can be exhausting. On the other hand, if you dedicate more attention to the best performers, you can possibly increase their efforts. From there, it becomes possible to transform average performers into high performers. At that point, low performers will leave or increase the results they produce.
What has this to do with society? As a whole, society functions in the same capacity. There are many ambitious people, in some cases geniuses, who have brilliant ideas that can increase the quality of our lives. When the majority of these people apply for funding from investors or banks, they are rejected. Many private equity firms reject 90% of business plans that cross their desk. Yet, society dedicates hundreds of millions of dollars to support the homeless. In addition, people proudly volunteer hours of their time to help the homeless.
While the intention to help the homeless is good, it sends a counterproductive message to society. As with the corporation that focuses too much time to reform underperformers, society provides rewards for people who have given up on themselves.
Some of you may say that not every ambitious person has a good idea. This may be true. From another perspective, imagine if we were to take money from the homeless and fund 10 entrepreneurs in each state. Those companies could possibly create new jobs. Imagine if each of those entrepreneurs employed 100 people in 50 states. That would be 50,000 new jobs. If you take it one step further, those 50,000 jobs would indirectly create other jobs in restaurants, office furniture, real estate, computers, office supplies, etc.
With this approach, society would benefit by the product or services of each company as well as direct and indirect job growth. As it stands, we spend millions hoping to transform one homeless person. Furthermore, it is difficult to combat poverty by changing poverty. In fact, that approach seems to increase poverty. The more people see there is support for low performance, the more likely they will take that path. It is much more empowering to combat poverty by focusing on increasing wealth. If society truly wants to eliminate poverty and homelessness, they will increase the amount of structures that support ambitious people who want to contribute.
What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.