Life and Death in America’s Global Corporations: The curse of competency
I caught this recent posting by Seth Godin
Competence vs. possibility
As we get more experienced, we get better, more competent, more able to do our thing.
And it’s easy to fall in love with that competence, to appreciate it and protect it. The pitfall? We close ourselves off from possibility.
Possibility, innovation, art–these are endeavors that not only bring the whiff of failure, they also require us to do something we’re not proven to be good at. After all, if we were so good at it that the outcome was assured, there’d be no sense of possibility.
We often stop surprising ourselves (and the market) not because we’re no good anymore, but because we are good. So good that we avoid opportunities that bring possibility.
Anyone who has spent time in many of America’s largest corporations can observe the curse of competency.
The largest corporations are your biggest opportunity and your biggest liability.
The Competency of Cogs
The largest corporations take their toll on those who are obsessed with competency and, at the same time, are suffering from personal insecurity. Obsessed with competency and the actual achievement of competency – especially in a functional/operational area – closes one off to taking risks. Taking risks and learning something new is not for the insecure nor for the non-curious.
The largest corporations have a warm place for the super-competent, super-insecure, super-nonCurious. You become a nameless cog is a giant machine. You may be tossed aside without ceremony with the slightest organizations change or change in technology that operates the giant mechanism of the company.
Opportunity in exchange for non-competency
On the other hand, America’s largest corporations are the best asset for competent risk takers and the super-curious. This environment provides unlimited possibility – if you know how to work it.
America’s largest corporations are both poison and cure; limitations and opportunity; life and death for your career.
It is always interesting to listen to the “super-competent” brag with arrogance about greatness self-assured in their domain of knowledge. Yet, when you look at where they are in the giant corporation you might find that, after 20 or 30 years, they are still without any strategic or direction setting role in that organization. Essentially, a “senior” position no different from where they started out after graduating from high school or college.
In a sense, you need to embrace failure (or at least the possibility of it) in order to become competent. Competent people with high levels of insecurity can’t achieve this.
The irony is that to become a strategic decision maker in America’s largest corporations in the context of an ever uncertain future you must travel a road of nearly continuous incompetency and have the intellectual fortitude, resilience, adaptability, and appetite for failure that each new challenge presents.
So, the confident, super-competent, non risk takers, need not apply.
Everyone finds their place. And everyone knows who and what you are
Your choice in America’s largest corporations. Cog or executive?
Eventually, everyone finds their place in the organizational hierarchy of America’s largest corporations. Your position and final destination in the hierarchy says much about how you deal with risk, uncertainty, ambition, resilience… and oh yes, how much your particular competency has limited your career possibilities.