Expanding the In-Group Won’t Solve Your Problem

Anyone with ambition has felt the difficulty of attempting to get where they’re going because they’re not “in” with the right groups. Much reform today is directed at making things meritocratic by attempting to quantify potential and using metrics to control power structures. Of course these metrics are largely applied to the decision to accept someone into an organization or sub-organization, because the actual structure of power is the game of those involved, and even if metrics are still “consulted” in such situations, that is not the game. In fact, it is very rare for metrics to serve as much more than low-pass filters for basic skills or else simply as contextualizing information. The reasons for this are mostly good: we are not capable of designing good, tamper-proof metrics for potential success.

But the result feels bad: the in group is always dragging us down. We didn’t attend the right college, we mispronounce certain words, don’t pick-up on certain references or misunderstand social cues. The only solution people seem to be able to countenance in public is tearing the divisions down: Why do these exclusive clubs exist? We must tear down the barriers, let everyone in the club.

We can, in fact, do just that. And sometimes we do. And when we do, we notice that all the original clubbers are standing in the corner, chatting among themselves, running them same old connections networks, grooming the same proteges. So we blind fold everyone. And lo and behold, the clubbers are talking to everybody. It doesn’t take long to see that within this situation, only certain people tend to sit at the same tables. In fact, the top-level has been cordoned off for the New Club Counsel. The New Club Counsel isn’t just all the old clubbers, though they’re an outsized share, it’s a lot of different people who have all started talking like each other.

After the next uprising, when the division between the top floor and the rest of the club is torn down, something strange happens. Everybody rushes upstairs, but a very careful statistician notices that the policies discussed on the bottom floor are the most likely to be instituted at the weekly meetings. And all the people who tend to hang out on the bottom floor talk very similarly.

You cannot open up the in-group. When you do, membership becomes an empty symbol. The more tearing-down there is the harder it will be to see who is being denied access where, because the notion of membership will become fuzzy its members spontaneously organizing has every advantage over you trying to formalize what membership means.

People want to form groups like they want to form families. We are not made to treat people as fungible “person units”. We develop relationships with people, our relationships become a community, and communities give birth to contexts. Context-ridden communication, rituals, and requirements keeps people out and we require a certain amount of that—we expect Doctors to operate in a certain context of medicinal knowledge and would not accept their lack of it.

But people naturally find distinctions just to have distinctions. Trade-secrets abound and they often reduce the quality of the trade itself. I don’t know how to fix that, but I do know that revealing trade-secrets drives the secrets deeper so that those who know them dare not even write them down.

Published by Crispy Chicken

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