When I was a student of statistics, I was told that outliers should be discarded.
Now that I’m a student of high-performance, I realize that outliers are the only things which really matter.
Recently, the CTO of Microsoft explained in an interview that less than 1% of 1% of all their programmers are more than 1000 times more productive than their average programmer.
Any organization of significant size depends on the ideas and work of less than 1% of its employees to create new value. The remaining 99% of employees are just along for the ride.
This phenomenon is driven by power laws: Small changes in input, will lead to massive changes in output. An example of a power law is the 80/20 rule.
This means two things:
First, your job is to create a success environment for these unique and talented individuals to succeed. Is your performance management geared towards accelerating the best, or is it designed to gradually improve the average? This distinction is the secret to create outliers.
Second, only small chunks of your own time matter. A pilot who crosses the Atlantic Ocean, will spend less than 10% of her time on the three things which make her excellent: Taking-off, landing, and dealing with emergencies. This is her highest and best use of time.
The secret to become an outlier yourself is to organize your day to increase the frequency and impact of these golden nuggets of time.