Which do you fear more, failure or mediocrity?

What motivational methods make some of you cringe (or worse)?

This is one of the questions that Dan Pink posed to the group participating in his live chat at The Book Club on the New Yorker. In response to the “Don’t make mistakes because I (mgr,owner, boss) will think less of you” motivational method, he said:

That’s one of the most insidious, imho. To me, it’s one of the greatest flaws in organizations. People are more scared of failure than of mediocrity. It should be the reverse. (emphasis mine)

Making a mistake is like breaking a leg. It happens and you fix it. Mediocrity is like a chronic, cancerous disease that gradually destroys you and from which recovery is far more difficult.

In the short term, mediocrity is “safe” and “going for it” is not. Or at least it doesn’t seem to be. (I can’t go for it, what if I make a mistake?)

Personally, I’d rather get a few broken bones along the way than spend my life trying to avoid those things that might cause them.

How about you?

From knowledge work to concept work

The nature of knowledge work, and the value of the term itself, is a much discussed question.  See, for instance, this conversation on the nature of knowledge work from earlier this year.  Although I don’t believe that the term “knowledge worker” is irrelevant, I do share Tony Karrers’s unease with the almost generic application of the term:

I’ve often been a little bothered by the fact that we categorize the a person working in a call center handling customer service requests in the same category as an engineer working in R&D – they are both called knowledge workers. That’s not as helpful as it should be.

To make the distinction more useful, Tony prefers the term “Concept Worker”.

That’s why I’m liking the idea of referring to work that involves figuring out unknowns as concept work and the people doing this work as concept workers. This more succinctly and clearly differentiates the issue for me.

I like it, too.  (Except for the “worker” part, of course, but I think we are stuck with that for now.)