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« Don't give up (you're on the right track) | Main | Better than everyone »

The end of the diva paradox

Great surgeons don't need to be respectful or have a talented, kind or alert front desk staff. They're great at the surgery part, and you're not here for the service, you're here to get well (if you believe that the surgery part is what matters). In fact, gruffness might be a clue to their skill for some.

Great opera singers don't have to be reasonable or kind. They sing like no one else, that's why you hired them, and why they get to (are expected to) act like divas. Get over it.

So the thinking goes.

The traditional scarcity model implied some sort of inverse relationship between service and quality. Not for service businesses like hotels, of course, but for the other stuff. If someone was truly gifted, of course they didn't have the time or focus to also be kind or reasonable or good at understanding your needs. A diva was great partly because, we decided, she was a jerk.

I think that's changing, possibly forever, for a bunch of reasons:

  • The state of the art is now easier to find. Word spreads about behavior and service faster than ever. As a result, customers quickly become aware of what a raw deal they're getting from this supposedly gifted individual.
  • It's so much easier to deliver better service (Dr. Diva, please send me an email if you're running late!) that we're far less forgiving.
  • Since just about any intelligent and caring person can use technology and a bit of humility to deliver better service (see above), we start to wonder whether that diva provider actually is intelligent and caring. And if he isn't, it doesn't really matter if he has some sort of skill, because uncaring hands are worth avoiding.
  • With fewer great gigs available (even in opera), it's not so easy act like a jerk (or be insulated and uncaring) and still get work.

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