The Entrepreneurial Engineer

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Peter principle plus one-to-three

The other day coming home from Nagoya, I was reflecting on several university administrators and wondering why a number of them seem to be one to three levels above their Peter level. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, The Peter Principle is
The theory that employees within an organization will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent.
In Peter's time the rule made sense and was almost self-evident, but at present it seems as though many individuals punch through their level of incompetence (their Peter level) and are able to rise one to three levels higher.

If this is so, we must ask why, and the most obvious answer is that promotion, at least in academic circles, is no longer strongly tied to the value "competence." Indeed the academy is a postmodern ideological muddle, a point made by Victor Davis Hanson here. Regardless, keep an eye on your leaders and see whether they are competent (a transient state), incompetent (the modern de facto equilibrium), or plus one-three of the Peter level (the postmodern norm).

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