Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Michael Bissell's Blog

Inverse Peter Principle

2007-01-13 12:00:00
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We're dealing with a problem vendor at work. He's an old hand at what he does, and at one time probably did know more than anyone else in the business. But the industry continues to change and he is dead certain that he's still right, even without checking. Steve and I were talking about this, and it seems that this is a variation on an old business theme.

The "Peter Principle" refers to someone who is promoted JUST outside of their ability. The theory is that if you do a good job in a big company, then you get promoted. If you do a good job in your new position, you get promoted again. Until you finally get promoted to a point where you can't really do a very good job, so you stop getting promoted AND you're doing a crappy job.

So, you have someone who did a fantastic job for the company promoted until they're not only not doing the job they were good at, but doing a bad job in your new position, doubling your liability and killing your company because you wanted to reward a good worker.

But, this is something different. This guy was on top of his game, and then the game changed. It's sort of the inverse Peter Principle. If you're really good at something, eventually things will change around you and (if you don't change) you won't be good at it anymore.

Or maybe it's more of task obsolescence. Not the whole job, like a blacksmith or a steamship captain or Fortran Programmer. It's that pieces of your job aren't applicable anymore. So your job is still there, but your skills don't apply. Which means you're no longer suited for the job that you were once the king of.

And that has got to hurt. Deeply. I never want to end up in that place, and I think as the Boomers age, we're going to see a lot of people ending up there. They still gotta work, they built careers on being whiz kids, but they just aren't anymore.

So the question in my mind is, is it a choice? I think it is, but I don't know what choices lead to this. Some of it is life choices (I'd rather live my life than grind at my job and learn more), some of it is simple arrogance (I've explained this so many times that I'm not even going to discuss it anymore, and therefore not learn when I'm suddenly wrong).

But some of it is biology. I'm slowing down a little, and I'm just 40. How do you avoid that? Once the ulcer kicks in the coffee doesn't make it as a top choice... diet and exercise while living the good life (or meeting with clients all the time) gets to be a tricky tightrope walk (but that's choices again).

Well, damnit, at least I know I'm right about this. (I hope)

Miami -- as far from Portland as you can go in the US
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