Towards a vision of greater perfection

By Alex Barrera on July 30th, 2012

Traveling changes your point of view. The more you travel, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more tolerant you become. If you want to. One of the advantages of travelling, of shifting your point of view is that you start having a blurrier perception of national borders, policies and cultures. Suddenly, things that used to annoy you don’t matter any more because you realise their impact is only local. In the course of my work, I tend to gravitate towards nascent or busy tech hubs across Europe. One of the more common discussions I hear from locals is how competitor x is shit or how much a particular Government agency sucks. As with any nascent movement, there is always a lot of passion and energy invested by everyone in crafting a new ecosystem. This is especially true in Spain and Greece, where local industries have always been extremely conservative and change is taboo. The thing is, these unamed heroes that push and fight to change things in their own countries are often visionaries. Like good evangelists and doers, they strive for perfection: everything in the ecosystem must be perfect, superb, of the highest quality. For them. What they fail to see is that, perfection is a matter of perspective: it’s an elusive and subjective term that changes drastically depending who you talk to. That subjectivity is what turns a sea of well-intended ideas into a battlefield. Competitors knifing each other, personal interest, greed and envy are the results. Not only is this selfish, it also harms the growing ecosystem.Humans are incapable of working together when you pack a room full of egos. Sadly, that’s what comes with being brilliant: an ego the size of the Empire State. Don’t get me wrong, confidence isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely doesn’t help when you need to collaborate with others and both sides think they are right. You only need to watch a little of the Renaissance documentary with the Dalai Lama to get a glimpse of how that goes down. (His face at certain points during the documentary is priceless, by the way.) When you unfocus your local lens and start to look at the big picture, you realise how inefficient and useless those petty fights are. Truth is, I used to be like that. I used to be very critical about such and such agencies, programs or people. I still am, sometimes, but my motives have changed. When I started traveling, I realized how wrong I had been: how unrealistic and utopian the notion of a perfect ecosystem is. The thing is: you need the bad ideas too. Mediocre people are a sign that the community is growing. The fact that mediocre people are entering the game reflects healthy momentum. As an evangelist, as a leader, you should be above your personal feelings: you should be above petty fighting. We need to understand that successful ecosystems work not because of their supreme quality, but because of numbers. This is where the law of large numbers makes its entrance. What I mean to say is: we don’t need better community members, we just need more of them. Large numbers ensure that success will eventually happen. Does this means quality doesn’t matter? Of course not, and we should strive to achieve it. But the quality within an ecosystem usually stays the same. But enlargement of the overall group means that quality can be more easily noticed by the outside world. The groupies, copycats and incompetents only serve to gild the lily. There are multiple examples of this democratization of dynamic systems. The movie industry has gone through the process. The music industry and the editorial world are now both experiencing the rollercoster too: in each case, quality will out. TED talks are another example. Even the university or higher education system is experiencing these dynamics of growth. In the end, there is always room for the bad and the ugly. They are part of the system. So we need to start thinking in a more global fashion, understanding that local fights are part of the game, and focusing on building a healthy ecosystem where there is space for everyone. The more heterogeneous a community is in its views, the healthier it is likely to be. Within an ecosystem there will be multiple communities, each with different approaches and priorities, but the compounded sum will benefit everyone. In short: stop hating, comparing and envying and start building. Collaborate, help others and keep looking forward. Because conflict and personal battles really are only for the mediocre. And I’m guessing you want to do more than simply gild someone else’s lily.