I shuttered when this hit my inbox today. It should have made me feel accomplished. It should have reaffirmed my decision to choose the really famous school...the outcome my friends, family and future colleagues would find most comfortable. But it didn’t. It didn’t because I’m smarter now. And I now know what I couldn’t have known then. I know lists like these were created by marketers to grab the attention of would be buyers so they could turn that attention into ad sales. The by product is the benefit of a select few on the list to sell more stuff. And it’s the dream of being on the list that we chase thinking this is how you “make it”. And worse, not being on the list is what we fear the most...a badge of failure and not being good enough.
But the caveat is now very obvious to me. 1. These lists aren’t created for individuals. And in a world of increasing value placed on bespoke, custom and “Wow, you did that just for me”, the aggregator of the top ten list is quickly losing its effectiveness. More and more people are now looking for the things not on the list…because often those things are the most satisfying to them (the Long Tail). 2. Being on lists like best seller, highest rated, five star and others doesn’t guarantee that you will actually create the change you are seeking to make. Rather it just ensures you are always chasing the artificial goal of being on a list. Sadly, this is almost a sure fire way to reach sameness…a race to the bottom.
As data becomes more and more plentiful, lists will change. Niches are being developed, on top of other niches. These new lists won’t be controlled by media in the same way as the old lists (until they can monetize the splinter lists). So for a short while perhaps, they will become more useful…to individuals with individual tastes, beliefs and values. But not until you stop clicking on the most famous and popular…works just like high school.