In The End of Average, author Todd Rose describes the downsides to relying on averages when it comes to humans. In fact, no one is “average.” Everyone has unique skills and abilities. Disregarding those unique talents is a recipe for failure, particularly in leadership. I found the book to be very informative, and I came away with useful material to use in my day-to-day work.
Francis Galton is a key actor in the story of averages according to Rose. Galton popularized the idea that human beings could be compared to an average. For example, if you averaged the height of all humans together, you might get something like an average height of 5’8″. That represented the perfect height of an individual. Galton also believed in the idea that talent and skill were universal meaning if a person was talented at one thing, he was most likely to be talented at other things too.
This idea was carried even further by Edward Thorndike, a Galton disciple that carried these ideas into education eventually resulting in an educational system often referred to as the Gary Plan, an educational system modeled after increased efficiency practices popular in manufacturing. Thus, we see concepts like standardized tests and school divisions based on age. Thorndike was an ardent believer in the concept of slow versus fast learners. Slow learners were destined to fail in almost everything from the very start. Fast learners, on the other hand, were destined to succeed.