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The End of Average

How to Succeed in a World that Values Sameness

By Todd Rose
12-minute read
Audio available
The End of Average: How to Succeed in a World that Values Sameness by Todd Rose

The End of Average (2016) reveals how people are measured against an abstract and misguided conception of the average human being, and how their individuality is more or less ignored. Learn about the first misapplications of averages to human nature, and how your company or school can lead the way in recognizing and embracing individuality. And reap the rewards!

  • Teachers and educators
  • Employers and HR specialists
  • People who want to realize their full potential

Todd Rose dropped out of high school, but eventually earned his doctorate in Human Development from the Harvard Graduate School, where he now works as the director of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program. He is also the author of the book Square Peg.

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The End of Average

How to Succeed in a World that Values Sameness

By Todd Rose
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
The End of Average: How to Succeed in a World that Values Sameness by Todd Rose
Synopsis

The End of Average (2016) reveals how people are measured against an abstract and misguided conception of the average human being, and how their individuality is more or less ignored. Learn about the first misapplications of averages to human nature, and how your company or school can lead the way in recognizing and embracing individuality. And reap the rewards!

Key idea 1 of 7

The mathematical concept of averages has its purposes, but it’s irrelevant when applied to human nature.

Chances are you spent a good portion of your school life getting grades that placed you on a scale of “above average” or “below average.” And as this carries over into job assessments and questionnaires, it invites the question: Who is this average person and how did this system get started?

Well, it began back in the nineteenth century, when astronomer Adolphe Quetelet first used the mathematical concept of averages to explain human traits.

At this time, using a system of averages proved useful for measuring astronomical characteristics, like charting a planet’s movements. A number of observers would take turns keeping track of the same celestial body and afterward, the average of their measurements would be used to get an accurate calculation.

Quetelet then applied this system to human beings. He measured thousands of people, both psychologically and physically, and averaged out the results in order to find what he considered the perfect “Average Man.”

However, while this approach might be suitable for astronomy, it’s not necessarily appropriate for measuring people.

For example, you might have heard the statistic of the average American family having 2.5 children. But, of course, no family actually has 2.5 children.

In fact, the majority of human beings almost always has different characteristics than what is considered the average, which makes the whole concept irrelevant.  

We can see this folly when it comes to human anatomy as well.

In 1945, a competition was held in the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. Women were asked to submit nine of their own physical dimensions; the winner would be the woman whose measurements came closest to a statue called “Norma,” created by sculptor Abram Belskie and gynaecologist Dr. Robert L. Dickinson. Using the average proportions of 15,000 women as reference, “Norma,” was sculpted to represent the ideal female figure.

Three thousand women entered the contest, yet no one came close to hitting all nine measurements. The winner only managed to meet five of the nine averages.

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