New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman: 'Average is over'

| August 26, 2013

Best-selling author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman tells public works professionals to perform above-average work to succeed.

Best-selling author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman tells public works professionals to perform above-average work to succeed.

Best-selling author and New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman spoke Sunday in front of a group of public works professionals about the challenges posed by globalization, changing technology, deficits and energy consumption.

During his session at the American Public Works Association (APWA) Congress and Exposition, Friedman noted that within a seven-year span at the start of the 21st Century, people went from simply being connected to being hyper-connected.

The rapid change has continued more than a decade later, and though it is great for consumers, it also poses challenges for the workforce.

To move past those challenges, Friedman said, businesses and professionals have to work harder than ever and “find their extra,” which he said involves working beyond what is necessary and becoming innovators.

“Average is over for everybody,” Friedman said.

He added that creativity, collaboration and communication are keys to maintaining above-average work.

Friedman said the “motivational divide” — an indicator of who has the motivation to perform above average — will separate those who will succeed from who will not. He pointed to four ideas that he said can help professionals become and remain successful.

“In a hyper connected world, think like an immigrant,” Friedman said.

He said immigrants are paranoid optimists: They are optimistic about coming to a new place that has the potential to provide better opportunities than where they left, but they are paranoid that everything could be taken away at any moment. Friedman said the paranoid optimist approach can provide motivation to never stop improving.

“Think like an immigrant,” Friedman said. “Never stop improving.”

Friedman also said businesses and professionals should “think like an artisan” because artisans carved their initials into their work when they finished.

“Think like an artisan. Take pride,” he said.

Friedman said it is important to “always be in beta.” He said businesses and professionals in beta are constantly reworking themselves to improve. He said they should continue to learn and relearn as new technology develops.

“Never think of yourself as finished,” Friedman said.

He also pointed out that “P.Q. plus C.Q. is higher than I.Q.” He said a personality quotient and a curiousity quotient is more valuable than an intelligent quotient.

“Always think entrepreneurially,” Friedman said.

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