Forced rankings abandon multiple variables, and they magnify differences that aren’t statistically significant. “Well, there has to be one winner,” they say, but of course, this isn’t true. It’s not a linear race, and the very concept of a single winner is forced.
When the US News college list started to get traction, plenty of college presidents spoke out in opposition. Over time, though, they discovered that being well ranked was profitable, and in an industry that touches billions of dollars a year, status leads to money and money leads to more status… Today, many colleges are intentionally gaming the system by changing what they originally stood for simply to move up.
High rankings do more than distort the behavior of those that seek to move up. High rankings attract the sort of people who don’t want to discover their own ‘best’. Who want to be around others that care about high rankings. Who will run to the next high rank the moment the world changes. And those that are attracted to the winner of a forced ranking change the very tenor of the place they chose. So now, that restaurant that used to be special is merely crowded. Now the company that only keeps its top performers is a horrible place to work.
The biggest problem with a forced ranking is that it’s forced.