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IIE_IMG_meritocracyInnovation is a meritocracy

By Ray DePaul

It’s no secret that there are organizations that are not meritocracies. Places where advancement and reward are not directly tied to merit but heavily influenced by factors such as age, gender, length of service, popularity, and even political savviness. I find these environments frustrating.

This is one of the reasons I love startups, and tech startups in particular. When MRU alumnus Stephen Guppy and his two partners built GNS3 into a global leader and then had a life-changing exit, it didn’t matter that they were all well under 30. It didn’t matter that they built their company in Calgary rather than Silicon Valley. It didn’t matter that they didn’t graduate from Stanford or dramatically drop out of Harvard. All that mattered was that they were innovative. Their product was innovative. Their business model and fundraising strategy was innovative. That was all that mattered.

This is why I love the pure meritocracy of innovation. Innovation doesn’t care where or even if you went to school. It doesn’t make you pay your dues or master corporate politics. It doesn’t ignore you in your twenties because you don’t have enough experience. It doesn’t mind if you’re past your theoretical prime. It doesn’t have clearly defined job descriptions that keep you constrained in a box. It doesn’t care how you dress or where you came from. If you take ideas and turn them into something valuable, you are innovative. Period.

Innovation is a career time machine. It can propel a 20-year old into positions of great power and it can revive a faltering career after a painful downturn. Isn’t it at least worth trying to build your own time machine?