The Paradox of Raising the Bar: Why Average is the New Exceptional


In a world obsessed with pushing boundaries and achieving greatness, it’s easy to overlook the power of raising the average. While many innovations aim to raise the bar and redefine what is considered exceptional, there is an overlooked truth: raising the average can often have a greater impact on our culture and society as a whole. From fast food to autotune, these seemingly mediocre advancements have transformed industries and shaped our expectations. In this article, we will explore the paradox of raising the bar versus raising the average and how it has influenced our perceptions and demands.

The Power of Raising the Average

When McDonald’s introduced fast food to the masses, they didn’t strive to offer the best dining experience possible. Instead, they focused on making roadside dining faster, cheaper, and more reliable. By improving upon the average dining experience, they revolutionized the industry and transformed the way people eat on the go. This is a prime example of how raising the average can have a profound impact on society.

Similarly, AI technology has not raised the bar for creative fields like illustration, copywriting, or coding. However, it has significantly increased the average quality of services such as high school essays, photo retouching, or programming. While it may not produce extraordinary work, it has made these services more accessible and affordable to a broader audience. This shift has democratized these industries and allowed more people to benefit from their use.

The Pitfalls of Criticizing the Average

One common mistake is criticizing innovations that seek to raise the average, under the assumption that they are attempting to raise the bar. When a tool or service aims to improve the average, it may fall short of producing something exceptional. However, that is not its primary goal. By focusing on improving the overall standard, these innovations make incremental improvements and enhance the quality of the mediocre output. While it may not be groundbreaking, it serves a valuable purpose and enables progress in its own right.

The Diminishment of Extraordinary Demand

Another consequence of raising the average is the potential diminishment of demand for the extraordinary. When something considered “good enough” becomes widely available, it can overshadow the extraordinary. For example, fast food joints replaced many excellent roadside restaurants because they offered a quicker and cheaper alternative. The breadth of demand for exceptional dining experiences diminished because the average now met the majority’s needs.

However, it is crucial to recognize that raising the average creates the conditions for new sorts of excellence. Each innovation that improves the average sets the stage for a new standard setter to emerge. By leveraging these advancements, they can find a different way forward and create a new path to raising the bar—one that seems obvious in retrospect. The cycle of improvement continues, driving innovation and pushing boundaries further.


While there is undeniable value in raising the bar and striving for greatness, we must not underestimate the power of raising the average. Sometimes, it is the incremental improvements and enhancements to the mediocre that have the greatest impact on society. Innovations such as fast food and AI have transformed industries and made their services more accessible to a wider audience. Additionally, we must recognize that raising the average can diminish the demand for the extraordinary, but it also paves the way for new standards to be set. It is through this paradox that progress is achieved, and the cycle of innovation continues. So, the next time you encounter an advancement that doesn’t raise the bar, appreciate its ability to raise the average and the far-reaching effects it may have.