November 15, 2011


Award - smoke dissipatesCongratulations to winners of the Business Excellence Awards from the Toronto Board of Trade! The gala took place on November 9, 2011. I was nominated and ... lost.

Is that why I'm saying something else matters more than winning an award? You may think so but I drafted this post well before the outcome was known.

The Winner Is ...

I used to love awards. The best album of all time. The Academy Award for Best Picture. The Car of the Year. Over time, I started finding that I could make my own decisions and did not always agree with the judges. I started to question authority (the third universal principle of influence).

Instead, I turned to what James Surowiecki calls the wisdom of crowds: as a group, we're smarter than the smartest amongst us. I started to rely on consensus (the fifth universal principle of influence), rather than authority

The Crowd

The Internet gives us instant access to lots of relevant crowds. Goodbye Consumer Reports.  I'll now look at Amazon, IMDB or other sites depending on what I'm evaluating.
Where are you getting advice these days? What about your customers? Are you visible where they are looking?
Netflix gives personalized recommendations based on your past viewing preferences. You see how others rated a film and even a prediction of your rating. That's nifty and works surprisingly well. You can also read reviews from other Netflix members. There's no need to see what newspaper reviewers say or to visit IMDB.


I was recently invited to judge a Toastmasters speech contest and declined. However, I attended and saw 13 contestants in two categories. Since we were given blank scoring sheets, I used them. The real judges selected different winners every time. This suggests the outcome could easily have changed with different judges. That's comforting and discomforting.

I also noticed that I formed impressions of the contestants before they even spoke. Malcolm Gladwell investigates snap judgments in Blink.

If other attendees also judged the contestants, their combined scores could have shown the collective wisdom of the room. Would the outcome have differed?


An award shows the decision of the judge(s) at one point in time. Awards needn't translate directly into an ongoing increase in revenue. Prospects may not notice or care. Would an award entice you to switch between Coke/Pepsi, pizza chains or realtors? Is an award from last year, still relevant today?

More Important

Awards are given on the basis of objective criteria but we don't make buying decisions logically. Trends matter more than winning an award.

Trends show patterns. If you earned other forms of recognition, the new award is further evidence of your excellence. If you only have the one award, your win could be seen as an anomaly, like a small lottery prize.

Suppose that The Tipping Point was a success but Malcolm Gladwell's other books flopped: Blink, Outliers and What The Dog Saw. How eagerly would you await his next title? Since all his books were well-received, the trend raises expectations for the next book.  The successes build upon each other. Malcolm was awarded the Order of Canada earlier this year. That's noteworthy by itself and consistent with his other accomplishments.

In the absence of a trend, an award winner might be a one-hit wonder.


PS Winning awards is nice too :)

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