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Are you above average? Is your child an A student? Is your employee an introvert or an extrovert? Every day we are measured against the yardstick of averages, judged according to how closely we come to it or how far we deviate from it.

The assumption that metrics comparing us to an average—like GPAs, personality test results, and performance review ratings—reveal something meaningful about our potential is so ingrained in our consciousness that we don’t even question it. That assumption, says Harvard’s Todd Rose, is spectacularly—and scientifically—wrong.

In The End of Average, Rose, a rising star in the new field of the science of the individual shows that no one is average. Not you. Not your kids. Not your employees. This isn’t hollow sloganeering—it’s a mathematical fact with enormous practical consequences. But while we know people learn and develop in distinctive ways, these unique patterns of behaviors are lost in our schools and businesses which have been designed around the mythical “average person.” This average-size-fits-all model ignores our differences and fails at recognizing talent. It’s time to change it.

Weaving science, history, and his personal experiences as a high school dropout, Rose offers a powerful alternative to understanding individuals through averages: the three principles of individuality. The jaggedness principle (talent is always jagged), the context principle (traits are a myth), and the pathways principle (we all walk the road less traveled) help us understand our true uniqueness—and that of others—and how to take full advantage of individuality to gain an edge in life.

Read this powerful manifesto in the ranks of Drive, Quiet, and Mindset—and you won’t see averages or talent in the same way again.

Review

“[S]ubversive and readable. . . . What has been called the new science of the individual.” -- New York Times

“Fascinating and engaging. Todd Rose dispels the myth that our success can be divined by a simple number or average, whether a grade, a score in a standardized test, or ranking at work. The End of Average will help everyone―and I mean everyone―live up to their potential.” -- Amy Cuddy, professor at Harvard Business School, and author of Presence

“[Rose’s] personal experiences are recounted hearteningly in his book. That alone makes it a worthwhile read for the aspiring nonconformist.” -- The Guardian

“An intriguing view into the evolution and imperfections of our current system . . .” -- Kirkus Reviews

“Todd Rose has achieved a rare feat: he is both provocative and right. He overturns our fundamental assumptions about talent, and offers an empowering way to rethink the world. With exciting stories, fresh data, and bold ideas, this book is far better than average.” -- Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take and Originals

“Consistently mind-blowing!” -- Dan Heath, co-author of the New York Times bestsellers Made to Stick, Switch, and Decisive

“Todd Rose shows that everything we think we know about ‘average’ performance is wrong. In fact, our one-dimensional understanding of achievement―our search for the average score, average grade, average talent―has seriously underestimated human potential. This book is readable, enlightening, and way above average.” -- Daniel H. Pink, author of To Sell Is Human and Drive

“Todd Rose’s thought-provoking book challenges the explanatory power of the everyday term ‘average,’ opening our minds to new ways of conceptualizing human variation and human potentials.” -- Howard Gardner, author of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed

“In the midst of a war for talent, we miss opportunities to find it. This stunning book shows how almost all measures we use reduce complicated individuals to one-dimensional beings...[and] overlook how talent, context, and disposition fold together to create individual uniqueness. I couldn’t put this book down.” -- John Seely Brown, independent co-chair of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge and coauthor of The Social Life of Information, The Power of Pull and The New Culture of Learning

“Rose will change the way you see culture, school, work and everyone around you. Taylorism is officially dead. With compelling stories and an engaging style, he transforms our understanding of who we are and what’s important.” -- Seth Godin, author of We Are All Weird and Stop Stealing Dreams

“The future belongs to enterprises that learn how to value individual employees and individual students, and Dr. Rose’s eye-opening account of the fascinating new science of the individual shows a practical path to the adoption of individuality.” -- Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, Inc., and author of Finding the Next Steve Jobs

“A must read for anyone who serves or creates solutions for other human beings. It serves not only as a guide for how to rethink our systems but in many ways is the best self-help book I’ve ever read.” -- Jim Shelton, Chief Impact Officer, 2U, Inc., and former United States Deputy Secretary of Education

From the Back Cover

Are you above average? Is your child an A student? Is your employee an introvert or an extrovert? Every day, we are judged according to how close we come to, or how far we deviate from, the yardstick of averages.

The assumption that comparative metrics like school grades, personality test results, or performance review ratings can reveal something meaningful about our potential is so ingrained in our consciousness that we seldom question it. That assumption, says Harvard’s Todd Rose, is spectacularly—and scientifically—wrong.

In The End of Average, Rose proves that no one is average. Not you. Not your kids. Not your employees. This isn’t hollow sloganeering—it’s a mathematical fact with enormous practical consequences. But while we know people learn and develop in distinctive ways, these patterns of behavior are lost in schools and businesses that have been designed around the mythical “average person.” This average-size-fits-all model ignores our differences and fails to recognize talent. It’s time to change it.

Weaving science and history together with his personal experiences, Rose offers an alternative to understanding individuals through averages that will help us appreciate uniqueness, and shows us how to take advantage of individuality to gain an edge in life.

About the Author

Todd Rose is the director of the Mind, Brain, and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he leads the Laboratory for the Science of Individuality. He is also the cofounder and president of the Center for Individual Opportunity, an organization dedicated to providing leadership around the emerging science of the individual. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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4.5 out of 54.5 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

Reid McCormick
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
the average formula...
Reviewed in the United States on March 12, 2020
“Oh people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forfty percent of all people know that.” This is a classic quote from one of my favorite philosophers, Homer J. Simpson. This quote perfectly highlights how statistics can be utterly meaningless. In the wrong... See more
“Oh people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forfty percent of all people know that.” This is a classic quote from one of my favorite philosophers, Homer J. Simpson. This quote perfectly highlights how statistics can be utterly meaningless. In the wrong hands (either knowingly or unknowingly), any number can be massaged to fit a desired narrative. It is one of the reasons why using statistics in a debate is useless.

The concept of average is very misleading. Mathematically, it is simply the sum of the numbers divided by the amount of numbers. It is a simple tool that can help paint a quick image, however, the image can be quite distorted. It would be very misleading for me to say that my child and I average of 20 hours of work per week. I work 40 hours, she works zero (she is only 5 years old).

This book attempts to dismantle the acceptance of average. Every day we compare ourselves to the average. Am I making an average salary? Are my kids learning above average? Do I eat more than others?

As much as I enjoyed this book, in the end, it felt like a great magazine article stretched into a 200-page book. The first story perfectly identifies the problem with average. The United States Air Forces attempted to create airplane cockpits that were acceptable for most pilots. They measured all their pilots from height to weight to arm span to waist sizes to a myriad of other factors and created a so-called average pilot. However, they soon noticed that the vast majority of their pilots did not fit into the parameters of their fabricated average pilot. Instead, they needed to create a cockpit and a system that was adjustable to most pilots. They needed to build the system around the pilots, not pilots for the system.

The rest of the book sort of drills home this same point to a lesser degree. The overarching theme is individuality. The author doesn’t suggest that we throw out all objective systems, however, he does propose wholesale changes too many systems.

One proposed change that stuck out to me was higher education. His suggestions emphasize credential only education and are adversarial to the liberal arts college idea. I agree both should be part of the higher education landscape, however, I side more with liberal arts. I believe credential only education is less innovative and more reactionary. A few years ago, petroleum engineering was one of the most needed and profitable degrees out there. However, within a couple of years that can change dramatically due to changes in politics, technology advances, or global supply.

Now, you may be thinking I didn’t like the book. I did like it, but after the first chapter, I just didn’t feel like I was learning too much. The subtitle and quotes on the front cover of the paperback version led me to feel like the book was going to be something else.
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BookNookDVD
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent book!
Reviewed in the United States on May 9, 2019
I found this book both fascinating and infuriating -- was very glad for this history of how the "average" developed for this country and how there are some great educators out there, like Mr. Rose, who see a need for change and are taking those steps. Average is destroying... See more
I found this book both fascinating and infuriating -- was very glad for this history of how the "average" developed for this country and how there are some great educators out there, like Mr. Rose, who see a need for change and are taking those steps. Average is destroying our kids in this current generation, their teachers and our public school system, which in turn affects the colleges and universities and how they operate. The system has long been broken and I hope this book might inspire more folks at the top of the education food chain to re-evaluate and make some radical changes for the better.
One person found this helpful
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Daniel Franklin, PhD
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Compelling and filled with remarkable insights
Reviewed in the United States on December 2, 2019
The End of Average by Todd Rose, PhD, is compelling and filled with remarkable insights. I have worked my entire career in education and I have waited a long time for a book like Rose''s. Among other things, Rose challenges many common paradigms that have squeezed our... See more
The End of Average by Todd Rose, PhD, is compelling and filled with remarkable insights. I have worked my entire career in education and I have waited a long time for a book like Rose''s. Among other things, Rose challenges many common paradigms that have squeezed our collective thought process into narrow strands and provides alternatives to thinking about growth, development, and progress. I was deeply impressed by his capacity to artfully weave his personal story into the academic and scientific themes he explores in his book. I highly recommend this book to all educators, clinicians, policymakers, and anyone who is seeking a broader, more comprehensive solution to the challenges we face in our work and lives.
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Kara G
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Every parent should read this
Reviewed in the United States on July 20, 2020
A fascinating read about the history of how "average" thinking came to dominate our world--and how we can break from it so each person can realize their potential. Although I wish I had read this when my kids were young, I''m going to recommend they read it for themselves as... See more
A fascinating read about the history of how "average" thinking came to dominate our world--and how we can break from it so each person can realize their potential. Although I wish I had read this when my kids were young, I''m going to recommend they read it for themselves as young adults entering college and the workforce.
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Brandon
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I love this book
Reviewed in the United States on February 23, 2018
I love this book! As one who has struggled with being compared against the "average" my entire life, this book was liberating for me. As a current public school teacher, this is liberating for my students. Highly recommended for anyone in our society!
One person found this helpful
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RNason
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Thought provoking
Reviewed in the United States on August 24, 2016
A very interesting and thought provoking book that will challenge your thinking about where you "fit" and where you believe others "fit" relative to you. Highly recommended for those who hire, for those in education, and for those who believe the world just doesn''t get... See more
A very interesting and thought provoking book that will challenge your thinking about where you "fit" and where you believe others "fit" relative to you. Highly recommended for those who hire, for those in education, and for those who believe the world just doesn''t get their unique talents.
One person found this helpful
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Nina
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The eye opener - everyone needs to read it
Reviewed in the United States on April 11, 2018
I love this book. I originally got it in the library but then bought several copies to share with friends.
One person found this helpful
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Bob Carlo
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United States on March 21, 2018
Excellent
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Top reviews from other countries

Lincoln Penner
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A book everyone should read.
Reviewed in Canada on July 24, 2019
A great look at how our schools and businesses cater to “the average” and how our society needs to change its mindset about how people work and learn. Peppered with anecdotes from the author’s own compelling story, from high school dropout to Harvard professor, this book...See more
A great look at how our schools and businesses cater to “the average” and how our society needs to change its mindset about how people work and learn. Peppered with anecdotes from the author’s own compelling story, from high school dropout to Harvard professor, this book will make you think about your own life and help you realize that your path is unique, that you don’t fit into anyone else’s box, and that you need to do what works for you and no one else. Just because other people achieved their goals one way doesn’t mean you need to take the same path to yours.
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Coach Simms, Cochrane, AB
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Interesting Read
Reviewed in Canada on May 20, 2017
Very interesting read. The premise of the book certainly opens your mind and makes you realize how prevalent ''Averages'' are in our lives and how limiting that has likely been. I didn''t give it five stars as I found myself wanting more of a plan for how we capitalize on our...See more
Very interesting read. The premise of the book certainly opens your mind and makes you realize how prevalent ''Averages'' are in our lives and how limiting that has likely been. I didn''t give it five stars as I found myself wanting more of a plan for how we capitalize on our own individuality more. In fact, without going back and checking, I thought that was an initial promise by the author. Given we''ve been living under the ''law of averages'' for almost 200 years, it may have been unrealistic to expect an individual formula for capitalizing on one''s own individuality when so much of society isn''t there yet. Worth the read, as the more people can relate to the material of this book maybe the more people can influence change.
3 people found this helpful
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Shelly C
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
One of my favourite books...ever
Reviewed in Canada on October 30, 2020
I LOVE the ideas in this book that challenge our averagarian thinking that dominates over individualism. As a teacher, it challenged the way I assess students.
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Jan Morgan
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Essential reading for educators
Reviewed in Canada on January 23, 2016
This book should be required reading for all teachers, school boards, tech schools and universities - and employers! It makes an unequivical case, with evidence, and should - finally bring about real democracy.
2 people found this helpful
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IB
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Highly recommended....
Reviewed in Canada on October 22, 2020
Thoroughly enjoyed it. Easy to read and understand.
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