The fallacy of “worst member of the band”

Lots of people talk about being in a group where people are smarter better than themselves. This probably is better, because you are assumed to be learning from these “smart” people all the time. Besides being too simplistic, it seems to me a fertile fallacy.

Do you remember all the members from Jimi Hendrix experience? which was dominated by Hendrix’s supreme mastery of the electric guitar. Or Cream, which was dominated by Clapton’s genius. But you probably remember all members of the Beatles, which was a much more balanced band. I posit that being the worst or even better member of the band is not good enough.

I am not saying seek out places where there are better people to work with, but that being the sole criteria is unfair for all the people involved and you take more from the “Circle of life” than you are giving back. This will never be sustainable.

Learning for me happens in 2 modes,

Working with people and picking up their tricks, opinions, ideas.

Working privately and following my own thought processes and experiences.

It may vary for different people, for me working privately, deliberately has been the main source of learning. This, I think because I can make mistakes and learn from them and figure out why and never repeat it again or figure out the situations to repeat it again leading to a deeper understanding. Rather than “best member of band” telling you to do certain things in the way he’s figured it. This leads to rapid learning but a much shallower understanding. (think Pair programming vs. Deliberate practice)

I say this with some experience, In the company where I work (Activesphere, for people not in the know), I went from worst member of the band to among the better ones and back to the bottom of the pile. ( I’d like to think not because I was going backwards, but because other people were making faster progress) This transition has taught me amazing lessons that might be subject for another post. The biggest one of course is that you need to be “best in the band” sometimes to figure out how to apply things you’ve learned. And eventually how to get back to the bottom by helping others get better than you. (If that makes any sense)

Bottomline, it seems to is to not worry in terms of worst/best member of the band but seek out what you want to do and what will help you get to learn better, rather than the rather mundane application of “Worst member of the band”


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