Let me start with saying I am not a psychologist, scientist, or researcher, so if you are looking for hard science, keep searching. I am the CEO of a technology company and I am currently participating in a committee with business and university leaders in our community. The committee goal is to come up with innovative ideas that can help drive collaboration between our amazing university (Go CU!) and our thriving business community.
During a recent committee meeting, one of the professors shared that they felt that in last ten years there has been an undercurrent of negativity in the university community that is evident in a “not good enough” feeling. She shared the feeling of a heightened focus on looking critically at people/organizations that are doing better than you and who is at the top of the list. This is combined with a sense of not being proud or happy of where we are today and being caught in the never-ending quest to be the best. I say never-ending, because even if the top is achieved, more often than not those days are short lived.
I don’t think this is unique to the university environment and I can relate to her sentiment within the private sector. Following some more consideration, it seems true in our personal lives as well.
The technologist in me wonders if, maybe, this is because we now have facts (or at least the perception of facts), literally at our finger tips. We are able to see where we stand on lots of lists, in lots of categories, and see people’s opinions about us, with just a quick Google search.
Historically, data related to our status/performance was published annually in print and accessibility was limited. In addition, there were fewer lists and criteria and it cost less to produce a “top list”. These changes have resulted in more data backed lists, quick access to subjective opinions, and an abundance of marketing ‘intelligence’.
Why so many lists? Seems simple, we have a natural desire to want to know how we rank. We experienced this in school when we were young. It was re-enforced with grades and honors. This continues on into adulthood as we want to buy the “best” products, go to the “best” schools, work for the “best” companies, live in the “best” cities, download the “best” apps, etc. Obviously, the internet has made this quest easier, and constantly feeds our desire to know who, what, and where is considered the “best”. Come on, I bet almost all of you reading this has searched using “best fill-in-the-blank”.
So where does this leave us? I see two take-aways. First, be thankful we have easy access to this type of data at our finger tips and embrace it. I admit, I am highly competitive and love having all of this data that can help me both personally and professionally be better, higher ranked, etc. I think seeing who is “higher” on lists can be motivating and drive innovation and continuous improvement.
With that said, the second take-away is just as important and requires us to take action. Make a concerted effort, to not only recognize, but celebrate where we are NOW. Share that acknowledgement with your friends, family, co-workers, clients, and create some positive energy. Take the time to say “we are proud to be recognized on such-and-such list”, or “you are the best, in my opinion, at fill-in-the-blank”, or “in these categories we have continued to move up in the rankings” before, during, and after is the hard part – working to actually be the BEST!