We’ve all heard about the Peter Principle, based on the notion that people are promoted in the workplace until they reach their level of incompetence.
Now a group of Italian scientists have come up with a new theory—that was rewarded by the New York Times as one of the most noteworthy ideas of the past year.
The scientists created a computer model of a 160-person corporation and programmed it to act off the Peter Principle—the best performers were promoted, but had “only a random likelihood of being good at their new jobs,” the article said. Before long there were plenty of incompetents scattered around the workplace.
Then the researchers reprogrammed the firm to promote people entirely randomly. What did they discover? Overall efficiency of the company improved. They also tried promoting only the worst or only the best performers and found that worked better too than promoting on merit
Paul Higgins: now there is a radical concept which most people will instinctively shy away from. The real question is what does it tell us and what does our reaction tell us about our deep seated assumptions and biases.