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9 Examples of a Meritocracy

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A meritocracy is a system that grants opportunities, status and rewards on the basis of ability and performance. The following are illustrative examples.


A meritocracy provides opportunities to those with the most talent as opposed to those with the most money. As such, an education system can only call itself a meritocracy if it is affordable to all.

Standardized Testing

One of the central problems faced by a meritocracy is how to judge "merit." It is common for a meritocracy to use standardized testing. This has problems as it may limit intellectual diversity. For example, a firm with the highest IQ employees might fall down in areas such as innovation, design and sales that require diverse talents that aren't captured by an IQ test. Having people who think very differently may be conductive to creativity.


Evaluation based on human judgment can be used to assess diverse talents in areas such as art, design and social abilities.

Segregation Of Duties

A meritocracy doesn't provide opportunities and rewards based on who you know. As such, decision making processes such as hiring or university admissions require careful segregation of duties such that an executive or administrator can't simply select their friends.

Equal Opportunity

A meritocracy is an intensely competitive system that doesn't differentiate between people based on factors such as race, physical appearance, disability, age, gender or sexual orientation.


Competitions may be used to chose people for opportunities. For example, nations typically have a system of competitive sports that is used to select representatives for the Olympics and other international events.


Qualifications are used as a factor in assessing merit. However, a meritocracy may be flexible about this and look beyond formal qualifications when other evidence of ability is apparent.

Past Results

A meritocracy tends to be more interested in recent results than what you did 10 years ago. They are known for quickly promoting youth who can demonstrate performance. In other words, seniority doesn't typically count although experience and knowledge is a major consideration in many instances.


In the corporate world, a meritocracy is typically managed with a system of setting objectives for each employee and evaluating performance against those objectives. Firms may require employees to show initiative and self-management such that they are expected to define their own objectives and keep a close eye on their own performance.
Overview: Meritocracy
A system that grants opportunities and rewards on the basis of ability and performance.
In its purest form, a meritocracy is an intensely competitive system that isn't sympathetic to the human condition. For example, it doesn't necessarily adapt to any disadvantages that an individual might have or experience.
Generally speaking, a meritocracy doesn't grant people time and patience so that they can discover their talents. Talents must be demonstrated upfront to participate.
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