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The list of countries by Nobel laureates is very revealing:

– The United States has 332 winners.

– United Kingdom 118, followed by Germany (103), France (58), Sweden (29) and Switzerland (25).

– China has 4 winners. India 9.

– Switzerland has 33 winners per 10 million citizens, China 0.052.

Even more revealing is to look at the German specifics:

– Before 1933, Germany won the Nobel Prize 38 times. 38 wins in 32 years.

– Between 1933 and 1950, Germany won it 9 times. 9 wins in 17 years.

What happened?

When countries become less concerned with output and more concerned with other factors (race, religion, political affiliation, class), they become less productive.

Hitler didn’t care about the work of Einstein, Teller, Haber and Frisch. He was only concerned about their religion and his insane racism.

(Now, let’s all be very grateful he didn’t care about their work. These were the people that made the atomic bomb possible. Can you imagine? Let’s not.)

All of us are guilty of this behavior.

We tend to put more emphasis on arbitrary factors than judging the work. Take an agency pitch:

Brands often choose a new agency because of the overall vibe. It can be the location. The architecture of the office. The chemistry. The niceties.

Employers choose new hires based on a cultural fit, not on their accomplishments. They rather create a  comfortable work environment than creating extraordinary work.

I used to have a dentist that was extremely friendly, I wouldn’t mind bar hopping with him. We chatted for 10 minutes before he went to work. Years later I found out that his work was terrible. I was blinded by his receptionist, his demeanor, the overall vibe. My current dentist barely talks. If I’m lucky, he has 5 words for me all day. But he does the work. Maybe the best work in the business.

I don’t care if my mechanic calls me on my birthday. I want him to do the work.

I don’t care if my mortgage broker loves the same movies. I want her to do the work.

Clients want agencies to solve problems.

The advertising doesn’t work. The product doesn’t sell.

So, the CMO gets orders from the CEO to fix marketing/advertising. The CMO has to find an agency to spend millions of dollars with. If I was a CMO, the last thing I’d be worried about is the culture, the fit, the perks. I wouldn’t care who I liked. I’d be looking at the work. At the expertise. The experience. What they have done. Not the charisma, their smiles, the hot latte.

Years ago, Washington Mutual ran the Whoo-Hoo campaign: The idea being that Washington Mutual was so good, all associates and customers should just shout out “Whoo-Hoo” all day. Employees greeted you with a handshake, they wanted to be your best friend and each hour, on the hour, employees got up to scream “Whoo-Hoo” in the middle of any transaction. Washington Mutual wanted to be liked. And they disappeared a few years ago.

Don’t try to be liked. Be competent.