We’re all guilty of overcomplicating things. Findings don’t have to be earth-shattering to be useful. In fact, in many workplaces, obvious insights are the most powerful forces for change.
Take this fascinating story by Adam Grant, organisational psychologist and professor at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania :
“A few years ago, I was working with a bank to improve the attraction and retention of junior employees. One of the clear problems was the reward system: Individual rainmakers got promoted to partner even if they were terrible managers. When I shared evidence that takers do more harm than givers do good and that the costs of a toxic worker tend to exceed the benefits of a superstar, one of the senior executives laughed out loud.
I finally got traction when I shared a more obvious piece of evidence from Google. When leaders there started training and evaluating managers on what sounds like Management 101 – setting and communicating a vision, caring about your team, staying results oriented – the company was able to improve performance for 75% of its worst managers. Not long after I explained that to the bank’s leadership team, they introduced a new manager training program and broadened performance reviews to assess whether managers were able to retain their star performers.”
It’s clear that obvious insights can be very convincing. Come in with a shocking finding (“firing your top performer could improve profitability”) and managers find it threatening. It’s not intuitive and it goes against personal experience. Lead with evidence that managers already believe is true (“It’s bad for employee satisfaction when managers are slow to respond to email”), and your foot is in the door to have them accept the more radical decisions.
Sometimes, the right thing to do is clear. Should managers have a one-on-one meeting with new hires in the first week? Of course – but as Adam says, “busy” managers just don’t prioritise this basic step. Obvious insights come to the rescue here too, in the form of quantifying the course of action. By putting a number on it – new hires who were met by managers went on to spend triple the amount of time collaborating – people become far more likely to act on it. There’s just no need to refer to complicated studies or corporate jargon – by keeping it simple, it’s impossible to deny.
Perhaps no-one will appreciate the obvious like your clients. Law firms, like many other businesses, may have a tendency to overdo – in trying to position ourselves as leaders in the field, we may overthink, overcomplicate and overwrite matters which by legal training seems much better than underdoing. But the truth is that clients sometimes don’t just want answers, they want answers they can understand. By keeping it simple, clients are more likely to be happy and satisfied – which is ultimately a key driver of success for any firm.
“I was expecting an aha moment. Instead, I got a duh-ha moment – a sudden flash of the blindingly obvious.”
For more of Adam’s great insights, read the full article here.