I have a confession to make. I have problem with actor Matthew McConaughey. Matthew could be a really swell guy, but for a star cast in ten movies in the last five years, he lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Actually, scratch that. I do sais quoi. He can’t act. We grow up. His emotional capacity stays the same age.
You might have heard the term “failing up.” I would define it as the ability to advance in your career — e.g.: being promoted, finding a better job, being cast in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past — despite demonstrating mediocre talent. It’s true for entertainers. It’s true for overpaid corporate executives. What’s behind the failing up phenomenon?
Marko Terviö might have an idea. He’s the author of Superstars and Mediocrities: Market Failures in the Discovery of Talent, a 2008 research paper I read, after seeing it at Marginal Revolution. Terviö’s thesis is that some industries are particularly susceptible to the career advancement of mediocre talent — especially in fancy management positions, sports, and Hollywood.
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February 24, 2012
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