My life has been defined by the extremes. Averages have often led me astray. Focusing on averages tends to lead only to average results. In this day and age where everyone gets so much data thrown at us, the world is displayed in averages. The average weight for someone my height. The average amount of vegetables one should eat. The average salary for my age and type of role. Looking at averages all day, one tendency is to set goals around the averages.
I feel better if I do a bit more than the average and bad otherwise. However, if I reflect on the most defining moments of my life, they only happened because I ignored the averages and went to the extremes. Pursuing (and luckily dating and then marrying) a person leagues above my average looks, personality, and smarts. Risking a comfortable career to sell pretzels in China. Writing a book despite my poor command of the English language as a kid. And so on.
At work, I see similar patterns. We have hundreds of dashboards that typically show averages of how we are doing. Average customer satisfaction scores. Average efficiency metrics. Average cost by business line. Yet, the real insights frequently come in the deep dive into the extremes. For example, while an average metric on customer satisfaction score could look great, focusing on the best and worst experiences that customers have had with us could show a very different picture. The extremes expose what we should double down on and what we need to fix immediately.
While averages have their use to show us trends and movements, living in the extremes is where I try to focus my time on.