Seth Godin has an interesting post – I’d be a lousy pilot – describing why pilots would probably do well in any job interview and why that would not necessarily be a good thing. The traits that are essential for flying do not always fit well with other businesses.

This is the alternative view of the amateur-versus-professional debate. The traditional argument, typically used by those who are critical of Wikipedia and the likes, is to describe the hell-ish scenarios that could occur if we let amateurs do stuff that should be reserved for professionals.

It highlights the simple reality that there are always two perspectives. Increasingly our roles could be divided into two camps, and they are not necessarily grouped as amateur or professional. Listening to the radio this week, on my travels, another example cropped up on Radio 4’s mid-week programme. Two of the guests were discussing the differences between the legal system and theatre.

  • The common thread connecting theatre and the law – they both deal with (indeed, depend upon) conflict.
  • The difference between theatre and the law – the law requires/demands precise language, to eleminate any and all ambiguity from arguments, whilst the theatre thrives on ambiguity.

This approach could equally be applied to the Wikipedia vs Britannica debate and many others. Just because you share a common thread doesn’t mean your business models will be the same. The skills to be a pilot (or surgeon or any other role that requires strict adherence to rules and procedures) will continue to be essential in the right environment and redundant in the wrong one. The same applies to the so-called ‘amateur’ roles.

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