While you are reading this piece I would encourage you to open another browser window and search for the some corporate value statements – stop reading further if meritocracy and teamwork don’t show up for at least 90 percent of companies. Everyone wants to believe that they promote a culture where the most capable swim up to the surface and lead, while also believing that everyone is fundamentally bound together as a cohesive team. I want to believe that too, just that I have little doubt that it is fundamentally not possible to have both.
Meritocracy was a catch phrase that was introduced by a British socialist in the 1950’s to define a concept that we all believed was a synonym progress, i.e. power, success and wealth should distributed according to talent and diligence. It was believed to be the founding pillar of societies – almost a definition for the American dream. And almost intuitively meritocracy appealed to organizational management – everyone was equal till you fundamentally proved yourself through capacity and capability to be better than the others.