Which one would you rather be?

  • A BIG FISH in a small pond or a small fish in a BIG POND?
  • A star performer in a startup or a team-member in a big company?
  • A popular person in a small community or an ordinary person a big community

The likely answer is: to be a BIG FISH in a BIG POND or a star performer in a big company or a popular person in a big community.


Because humans being are obsessed with attention, with self-importance and elitism.

We believe being popular with the in-group makes us more important and self-worth.

Malcolm Gladwell argues against this. Gladwell is basically against anyone attending a famous university just for the name, or really doing anything for the sake of prestige.

To choose something elite is, more often than not, to choose being a little fish in a big pond, he says, since only a select few will shine among the best.

He believes people are generally better off choosing to be part of a lesser known organization where they have a greater chance of standing out.

The concept Gladwell draws on is called “relative deprivation.”

It was coined by Samuel Stouffer, a sociologist, during World War II to describe how we measure ourselves against the people immediately around us.

Our successes are always compared to their successes, as are our failures.

If you want to see an in-depth talk about Relative Deprivation or what he terms Elite Institution Cognitive Disorder [EICD], watch this talk Gladwell gives at Google Ziegheist.

What we deem as an advantage attending an elite institution might actually work against us and what we deem a disadvantage attending a less prestige institution might actually be what we really need.

Small teams have the ability to form strong team bonds than big teams.

There is a stronger chance to develop a sense of community and belonging when you are in a small community.

A big city is a jungle where no one really cares about another person. You are likely to be mugged and everyone will pass you as if nothing is happened.

This is unlikely to happen in a small town where people will stop to give you assistance when your car is broken down or you are lost and need directions.

You want a sense of humanity, of belonging, of community, of teamwork, of mattering, of caring? Think small institutions.






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