Hard versus Easy

  • Written by admin
  • November 16, 2014 at 7:53 am
  • Choosing between ‘harder right’ and ‘easier wrong’

    At West Point United States Military Academy there’s a line in a prayer for cadets, “… to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong …” A powerful message intended for military leaders to make the right moral decision in the face of conflicting choices.

    Experience has taught me that a similar credo would greatly benefit business leaders and their organizations. Not so much as a moral compass but rather as a reminder to avoid the unfortunate and costly bias towards ‘easy’ solutions over ‘hard’ ones.

    How often have we witnessed business leaders reach for answers through intuition instead of logic? Or choose the easier alternative because of ease, familiarity, group think, pressure, comfort, risk aversion, confidence, expediency, cost, simplicity, arrogance, ignorance, and just plain habit. Only to realize later that, oops, they were wrong!

    They should have taken a ‘harder’ look at alternative solutions that were perhaps more complex, more expensive, more uncomfortable, and just plain more work. Because in the end they would have gotten it right – a return worth the investment of time and money.

    A riddle to challenge your intuition

    Source: Thinking, Fast and Slow, D.Kahneman, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 2011

    If a baseball and a bat cost $1.10 together, and the bat costs $1.00 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?
    Was your answer that the ball cost 10 cents?
    If so, you’d be wrong.

    The solution:
    Although $1.00 + $0.10 does equal $1.10, if you take $1.00 – $0.10 you get $0.90, but the problem requires that the bat costs $1 more than the ball. So, the ball must cost $0.05, and the bat must cost $1.05 since $1.05 + $0.05 = $1.10

    Using algebra to solve the problem:
    First, let’s set up the equation:
    x + ($1.00 + x) = $1.10;$1.00 + 2x = $1.10;2x = $1.10 – $1.00;2x = $0.10;Finally, solve for x:
    x = $0.05
    Check your work:
    x + ($1.00 + x) = $1.10, so
    $0.05 + ($1.00 + $0.05) = $1.10

    Who cares?

    According to research reported in the journal Science, the 10 cent answer indicates that you are an intuitive thinker, and the 5 cent answer indicates that you solve problems analytically, rather than following your instincts; a good thing to know, right?

    When organizations have ‘leadership issues’ and want to promote leadership behaviours that are believed to be aligned with its culture, what do its senior leaders do? They typically do what they have always done – provide off-the-shelf or customized training program to their leaders. Why? It’s because it’s an intuitive, usual, simple, and expedient prescription; and then they can ‘check the box’. Or conduct a 360 degree exercise asking respondents to assess a leader based on leadership traits deemed important for the organization. Why? Again, because it’s an easy, familiar, comfortable, and risk-free approach; and they can then ‘check the box’. Do these interventions work? They do for some. For most, flip a coin. For the rest, it’s a ‘no’ or the behavioral changes don’t last. And when this happens, organizations move leaders over or out with little regard for their true potential. And for as long as organizations persist in following this path it’s little wonder why good leaders at all levels leave the organization and why weak leaders don’t and in fact oftentimes get promoted!

    A challenge to your comfort zone

    “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.Source: Machiavelli

    Contrary to popular belief, effective leadership is not simply the sum of predetermined ‘soft’ skills but rather a careful blend of arts and science, emotions and reason, and of heart, head, and guts.

    Developing effective leaders is one of the hardest challenges to get right. It might require business organizations to adopt discovery and learning methodologies that are novel, uncomfortable, time consuming, complex, and risky. In short, solutions that takes it out of its comfort zone.

    If ‘getting it right’ is important to you then avoid the temptation of choosing the path of least resistance. Carefully analyze the ‘harder’ alternatives.

    “Of course, the hard things are often the easiest things to avoid; procrastinating, making excuses, or pretending they somehow don’t apply to you and your situation. Ordinary people achieve incredible feats of success if they step out of their comfort zones and do the hard things that their more educated, affluent and qualified counterparts don’t have the courage, drive or determination to do.” Source: www.marcandangel.com, June, 2014


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