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We live in world built on preferential selection. A preferential selection is the constantly refined number of endorsements that are accrued as a result of being born to the right people, going to the right schools, attending the right university and finding the right job. Together they create the base that allows others to risk trusting their responsibilities to our capabilities.

Each step is intended to exclude people. Most never made it to the right schools. Many were dismissed by the gatekeepers of higher education. Some survivors will fail to fit the modern corporate machine. Each additional hurdle removes people from the path of the anointed.

Preferential selections matter. Institutions are built to perpetuate and reward them. Each branch has ‘sideways’ paths to cater for people who fail in the march ever upwards. There are good, but not great, schools. There are good, but not great, universities. There are ‘sideways’ promotions. The threat of preferential selections is why we want our kids to do better at school, go to the best university and push for the next promotion. Every previous achievement defines the opportunities and responsibilities that we’re given.

This selection is designed to help incumbents. It controls the pace of change to a regulated upward march. You don’t get to the next level without having passed the levels below. These lock steps generate a homogeneity in experience, exposure and mind set that was essential for success.

As a result, preferential selections are also the basis of all discrimination, whether on grounds of race, religion, gender or otherwise. It’s what allows people define standards and exclude those who fail to meet their arbitrary definitions. They allow us to decide whether someone is educated enough, experienced enough, or well connected enough for a particular role.

A hierarchy built on preferential selections is destroyed by rapid change. We live in a world of ever increasing disruptive change. Some of that change we have yet to come to grips with. Some industries have changed, disappeared or been created faster than others. The internet sector did not exist 20 years ago. The traditional CD manufacturer may be obsolete within the decade. Surviving industries, like the legal profession, are facing dramatic changes that create a radically new playing field.

The logic that promotes preferential selection is therefore starting to break down. It’s now insufficient to have a regulated gate keeping process. The best are distinguished by a track record of being different – by being outstanding in both senses (that the stand out from the crowd both by their work and by their nature) – in their chosen sphere and not by their distinguished pedigree. The outsized advantages generated by being different – their ability to think and act outside the expected thinking space – is far more valuable than the quality assurance given by preferential selection. In a world where good is ubiquitous, the ability to be different is a cardinal virtue.

I see this as a tremendous blessing. I don’t think we have ever experienced a world where there has been more enforced toleration, desire and promotion of diversity. Not because of some commitment to theoretical values or because of the acceptance of enlightened principles, but because the need for diversity and variety is a commercial necessity. A world build without preferential selections will be a radically different place. Its egalitarian nature is one that we should celebrate.

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