The Problem: Informational Blindness and Paralysis
Human brains have evolved to make fast either/or decisions. Reflex thinking includes a type of informational blindness that fools many on this riddle:
A bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. What does the ball cost?*
New analytical insights can also be overwhelming. The quick decision becomes whether you should figure out the problem now or put it aside and do it later. Then there is no later, and paralysis sets in. We are too busy doing what we habitually do, with fine tunings.
The Solution: “Disfluency” Assignments
Disfluency is when we are forced to do tedious assignments with new information. By slowing down and puzzling through a mental challenge, we pay more attention to details. We start to question what we are working with. We think like scientists and seek experiments to try instead of stating our gut-feel, data-free, snap, dismissive opinions.
A distributor subscribes to a cloud analytics service that reveals the net profitability of customers, SKUs and more. Most employees don’t easily understand this new world, and they don’t want to change. They are too busy with their habitual beliefs and ways.
The disfluency assignment:
- Sort everyone into teams of six people that includes one manager, one outside rep, one inside rep, a warehouse person, a driver and a back-office person.
- Assign each team a big account that has some degree of costly order activity on both sides (small-dollar picks and orders).
- Create some stretch goals, such as find the lose-lose activity and turn it into win-win savings. Set ways to measure success, perhaps by winning more share of the account and getting happy customer testimonials.
- Process the data. The manager and rep do the heavy analytical work and then present the findings, theories and questions to the other four. The team brainstorms on what they know, don’t know, and what they could find out with an account visit.
- The manager and rep do a site visit and note what solutions and agreements emerge.
- The team then presents the solutions to a wider audience.
Through hands-on, deliberate work and repetition everyone sees how all stakeholder groups (employees, customers, suppliers and shareholders) can win by acting on new and insightful analytics.
To cure blindness and paralysis, get customer and SKU profitability analytics. Do the work and make everyone sweat through the numbers as teams. Teams provide collective learning and support for perseverance. Deadlines for presentations create a sense of urgency, and spark creativity and extra effort. Success stories then breed more successes. And, all stakeholders win.
*Riddle Answer: 5 cents. Do the algebra equation to solve for “X”