Why Average is a Myth

Average is a myth, so why should it control our lives? We measure ourselves — and others — against averages all the time. Think GPAs, personality tests, standardized test results, performance review ratings. These are average measures that tell us little about what makes us unique. And this is not just a feel-good argument. It is a mathematical fact.

In his bestselling book, The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World that Values Sameness, researcher, professor, and president of The Center for Individual Opportunity at Harvard, Todd Rose, explains the history of average and how it became so embedded in our culture. He goes on to explain why now, more than ever, we need to move beyond its impact on our schools and our workplaces.

In this interview, we talk about:

  • How the concept of average has done us more harm than good
  • The courage of a brilliant scientist to question average for the greater good
  • What newborns and chubby thighs can teach us about the limitations of average
  • How innovative organizations are tapping into the wisdom of jaggedness for hiring
  • Why organizations are relying on CodeFu to find great programming talent
  • Why the personality test industry is bigger than ever and more bankrupt
  • Why personality traits are context dependent, not inherent or static
  • Why unlocking the context of behavior can be game changing in helping kids
  • The important connection between environment and self control
  • Why faster does not equal smarter
  • Why we need to get rid of fixed-pace learning in schools
  • Thoughts on competency-based versus grade-based learning
  • Shifting from diplomas to micro-based credentials
  • Giving individuals more say in their learning pathways
  • What Todd Rose thinks about personalized learning and personalization
  • Why we need to keep equity at the forefront
  • What dark horses may have to teach us

Selected Links to Topics Mentioned



The Center for Individual Opportunity

Adolphe Quetelet

Francis Galton

Edward Thorndike

Peter Molenaar

Esther Thelen and her study on newborn stepping reflex



Matthew B. Crawford and The World Beyond Your Head: Individuality in an Age of Distraction

Yuichi Shoda

Celeste Kidd

Khan Academy


Ogi Ogas

Kevin Kelly and Wired

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