I think the world should be a meritocracy.
There, I went and said it. Come and get me, I'm ready.
First, my definition of merit: the quality of a person's contribution to a given environment for the role they have been commissioned to fill. This means hiring someone or rewarding someone based on what they can do, rather than what they represent. This means pressing every member of the team to step up and distinguish themselves in some way, rather than hiding in the back trying to blend into the background.
What about rewarding "hard workers"? People should be held accountable for the work they took on, and measured on the quality of the work they produce. In my environment - in a software development environment - if I'm lacking in a 'knack for things,' then I should go make up for it in any way I can find: reading books and blogs about my craft and industry, keeping on top of new and relevant changes, finding some way to fill some niche in my environment that has not yet been filled. A meritocracy is no place for complacency (and is apparently not very friendly for work-life balance, either) - everyone should be pushed to be better.
And what about encouraging destructive competition within a team? I think people are big enough to recognize that working together allows everyone to achieve more (I sound like an inspirational poster in a second-grade classroom). Helping others does not detract from the quality of your own contribution, and can often improve skills in other aspects of your life - ones that may become valuable in surprising ways.
More to come next week. Possibly not on the same subject. Can you stand the anticipation?
Note: I've formed a blogging support group (pair?) of sorts with a friend. So we'll now find a way to meet up and/or blog together once a week, as we both recognize the value in: 1) writing down our thoughts in some structured way, 2) exposing our thoughts in a public forum, and 3) company while miserable. Or, at least, company while doing things that all too easily get pushed to next week's to-do list. Hopefully practice will make perfect - and the quality of these posts will improve.
Let me know what you think on Twitter.