Sunday, April 15, 2012

Too Many Stars

Imagine there are two types of jobs in the world: stars and support. Stars are the jobs where you're the center of attention. They are the decision-makers, the bosses (or at least appear to be): CEOs, professional athletes, entrepreneurs, newscasters. Support are all those jobs that make the stars' job possible: administrative assistants, janitors, supply chain management. Support is logistics.

We tend to romanticize stars. People often dream of being the Most Important Person in the Room, the one who orders others around and makes the Big Decisions. College encourages students to be leaders: "training future leaders" is common theme in mission statements. While grading senior projects (which are typically a detailed business proposal), students seem to prefer starting a high-end specialty store rather than something more humdrum, even if the humdrum one makes more sense.

And so good support is hard to find: advertising over supply chain management, boutiques over discounts, cooks over waiters, researchers over teachers, Apple over Wal-Mart, etc. It even happens in online video games (where the main goal is killing stuff): damage dealers are a dime a dozen but players interested in keeping their allies alive are a bitch to find.

We have too many people dreaming of becoming stars and it's incredibly wasteful. Think of all of the people who would be great at "mediocre" roles but instead are instead wasting their time trying to be actors or entrepreneurs. Being a star has more prestige and for good reason--don't get me wrong, stars are important--but we place too much emphasis on stars. We rarely think of training and encouraging good support and that should change. It's not the generals who win wars; it's the logistics.