The most valuable thing I learned at university? It wasn’t anything I picked up in a book, lecture or tutorial, although I had plenty of brilliant tutors. It was raising the bar of what I realised people my age were capable of. I discovered just how driven, smart, inventive and gutsy “people like me” could be. Although I was too busy having a good time to really appreciate it back then, it has stood me in good stead since. Whatever I’ve done, I’ve always assumed someone else could probably do it better, and have wanted to go one step further the next time.
Moral of the story? The web can have the same impact, but on a far grander scale. People are potentially exposed to far more people within their field of interest or expertise than ever before: it’s no longer just colleagues, sector specialists with a column in a trade publication, or someone you might hear or meet at an event. Now it’s an extended network you have access to on LinkedIn; it’s the bloggers or people active on Twitter providing content and engaging in conversations.
Result? Perhaps not just yet, but ultimately, it should make everything better, because all our frames of reference will have grown. The bar for what constitutes brilliant will have risen to the extent that we’ll need to push ourselves much farther to be considered smart or cutting-edge, because whoever is judging our work is not just comparing us to the ten others who constituted the network before, but to the hundred others who are just a click away on Google.
Will we need to work harder? Perhaps, but collectively, we should all benefit in time, so it’ll be worth the effort.