Optimizing our Careers for a 5 Star Rating
As Om writes the reality of the next thirty years is that most people’s job performance will trend towards an Uber like rating system.
At present we rank photos, rate restaurants, like or dislike brands, retweet things we love. But if this idea of collaborative consumption takes hold — and I have no reason to think it won’t — we will be building a quantified society. We will be ranking real humans. The freelance workers — like the Uber drivers and Postmates couriers — are getting quantified. The best ones will continue to do well, but what about the others, the victims of this data darwinism? Do they have any protection or any rights?
As society adapts to this new reality of daily performance reviews people will learn how to optimize their 5 star rating reviews. Unless we adapt these rating systems they are going to become as meaningless as college GPAs. Or worse yet, discourage risk taking.
First a quick refresher on how these rating systems work. Across on-demand labor systems like Uber, Postmates, and Gigwalk for each task you do the buyer rates your performance using a 1-5 star rating system. Ultimately, 4 and 5 star workers get more work and the 1-4 star workers are removed from the labor pool. Uber is now dealing with the fallout of ejecting low performing drivers.
These performance rating systems are blunt objects. All tasks are created equal and you basically either pass or fail. Yet, in reality all tasks are not created equal. Even for fairly basic tasks that exist across Uber, Postmates, and Gigwalk some are challenging and complex while others are simple and quick. Yet, to the rating system they all look the same.
As an Uber driver optimizing to maintain a 5 star rating which job would you rather do? Drive four drunk and angry customers to a club at 1AM or drive a kind and generous venture capitalist from downtown Palo Alto to Sand Hill Road at 2PM. Uber has no idea that your customers were drunk and nasty. All they know is that you got a 1 star rating.
College students optimize their GPAs by taking ‘easy A’ classes and it contributes to meaningless GPAs. Now imagine if people start to optimize their careers against maintaining a 5 star rating. We’ll have thousands of Googlers signing up to build the next Calendar feature rather than developing self-driving cars. That calendar feature is a sure thing 5 star review to show on your LinkedIn profile, while the self-driving car thing could be a 1 star flop.
We are going to have to adapt our performance review systems for this new labor reality as we need people taking on risky ‘moon shot’ projects.
[Disclosure: I founded Gigwalk]