If you were king for a day, what would be the one change you would make to your organization?
If you’re like most folks, you identified a people issue. Maybe you’d want your leaders to communicate more effectively, or you want more feedback from your boss, or you’d like to see an individual rabble-rouser be shown the door. Once you choose the change, you’re able to weave an intricate narrative of how that one shift would spark radical transformation.
Could you guarantee, with complete certainty, that it would work?
That question gets a little more complicated. If your job, house, or life savings were on the line, would you be unflinchingly confident with the gamble?
In coaching, we often discuss the challenging decisions leaders have to make. We preach patience and empathy for senior leaders who are usually under pressures that they never communicate. What seems like an obvious decision to you might be much more complicated with additional context. There is a gap between your belief, and the reality your leaders have to navigate.
One way to explain the gap is a bias known as the illusion of explanatory depth. In research published in 2002, the authors of a study into this bias explained it as, “people feel they understand complex phenomena with far greater precision, coherence, and depth than they really do.” Another study showed the extent to which our overconfidence tricks us by asking people to draw a functional bicycle. Only 40% were able to complete the task successfully.
We think we know how the organization works, how the interactions of leaders, managers, and the rest of the team create a work product. The reality is likely much more complicated than it appears.