Drop the “Average” and Focus on “Jaggedness”


No one likes to be identified as “average”, yet a lot of institutions still apply the “average profile” of a person/student/worker for creating programs and frameworks for the society. To learn more about whether the end of a simplistic idea of “average” is coming and what are the alternatives to it we turned to Lazar Dzamic –  ex-Google ZOO Head of Brand Planning for North and Central Europe (NACE), creative strategist, writer and academic, who gave an inspiring talk about jaggedness and the end of average during Coworking & Coliving Conference Southeast Europe in Belgrade.

Let’s look at the most generic requirement of any vacancy posted by any company –

“Good communication skills”.

It seems quite intuitive that a company would want someone who has good social skills, but does it really say anything at all? Communication skills can be developed very differently by every person – someone can be good at public speaking and can present in front of large audiences; another person is comfortable while pitching to a closed group of executives; and someone can be very good at one-to-one communication. There is probably not a single person that can combine all three. However, for the sake of simplicity recruiters average it out to “good communication skills”, without adapting it to the actual needs of the company and the position. Such vague and over-generalized requirements might result in an averagely successful interview, where both an applicant and a recruiter play their roles according to the norms. However, the job description is not meant to ensure a successful interview, but rather a good fit for a company without a mismatch of expectations from both sides. 

Educational Institutions Preparing Average Students 

It’s not only during a hiring process that a person needs to adjust to the average “perfection”. Educational institutions average out all the students in groups and send them off to the day full of averagely-made classes. Those classes are separated one from another with a school bell that remotely reminds of Pavlov conditioning and a bell that was used on factories during the times of mass-production to announce the end of a shift. Creating averagely-skilled workers would mean efficiency at plants and factories back then. But is striving for average really something that would get us far in the days of high automation and a need for creativity and highly developed specific soft skills? 










People spend the largest portion of their lives in two places – School and Work, and most of the times those are the two things they are most unhappy about. This clearly illustrates that the current system fails us. So what can be changed?

HR is Becoming Obsolete

Back in the 80s-90s “personnel department”, which was majorly focusing on paperwork for employees, has evolved into what is now known as “human resource management”. The main function of HR was to ensure labor compliance, enforcing corporate rules and regulations, as well as managing employees’ salaries and paperwork.

Nowadays, if we look at the term “Human Resource” something just does not feel right. Are the employees really resources, just as much as chairs, materials and other assets that are meant to ensure efficient work processes? When more and more simple tasks are being automated, isn’t it creativity, and individual voices that are needed from employees instead of being yet another resource? 

If HRM is there to stay, it needs to evolve and go from the very first steps of the term rebranding to more fundamental understanding of talent management in the workplace. 

People’s Science

What is needed from an “HR manager” nowadays is to help develop the organization culturally; strategically advise the company’s leadership on talent; and consult and help employees on personal development, growth and performance. HR managers need to ensure that teams preserve fresh perspective and each individual within a team is managed within the context.

So HR is basically transforming into “people’s science.” People responsible for it need to have a deep understanding of psychology along with the trends in the society and vision of the company. 

Implementing Jagged Profiles

Todd Rose – a co-founder and president of the Center for Individual Opportunity and a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, spent his time researching the topic of “averageness”. He concluded that the key ingredient to giving context to talents both in the workplace and school environment is jaggedness (something irregular, unevenness, variability – the quality of being uneven and lacking uniformity).

Rose says, “if we ignore jaggedness, we end up treating people in one-dimensional terms”. “If we want to know your intelligence, for example, we give you an IQ test that is supposed to tap a range of abilities, but then we merge that into a single score.” Imagine two young students have the same IQ score of 110 — the exact same number. One has one great parameter but a poor another, and the other has the exact opposite jaggedness. “If we just want to rank them, then we could say the students are more or less the same in intelligence because they have the same aggregate scores. But if we wanted to really understand who they are as individuals enough to nurture their potential, we can’t ignore the jaggedness — it is the essential information for providing them with an optimal environment and matching them with optimal strategies for success.”


The key to creating school and work environment that gives environment to an individual to develop and flourish is implementing this “jaggedness” parameter into the framework and stop treating people as a deviation from an “average.”