Insanity Defined

Look back and consider what those things that a year ago you were set on seeing improvements on that you or your organization are still struggling with today are. Have you been working hard on issues without getting the gains you thought will manifest by now?

Here are a bunch of examples I’ve witnessed my clients go through this past year:

  • Business churn/conversion issues, which they tried to improve on by setting all sorts of syncs and high-level goals, but without understanding root causes and introducing novel approaches.
  • Candidate hiring pipeline that’s failing, with too many people getting proposals and not accepting. Addressing this by trying to cram more people into the pipeline, without considering what is causing the issue in the first place.
  • System stability or quality issues that are fixed by handling what’s currently on fire without systematic learning to prevent the situation from getting the same in two months.
  • Lamenting the woes of having employees and managers not perform well, right after onboarding or even years later, and only putting out fires to address it instead of executing an effective feedback process throughout the organization.

I’m assuming some of these ring true. The common theme is that these are addressing by trying to work harder on solving things quickly instead of working smarter and getting to the bottom of issues. I forget which guest on Tim Ferriss’s podcast said this, but instead of trying to improve things by 10%, which means you’ll default to working harder, consider what would be required to get a 100% improvement. Likely, you’ll need to reinvent things and work smarter.

Work on the organizational habit of regular improvement:

  • Iterate fast. Nothing is perfect, and changes of things you consider a high priority should not take months, but weeks (or less!).
  • Create a metric and measure progress. You need to know what is good enough and how fast you’re going there.
  • Retrospect regularly. Again, instead of doubling down and working harder, consider your latest attempt, and it’s efficacy. What can you change to improve? What’s working well?
  • Incorporate feedback. The above retrospection should, at times, involve more people to get more ideas and new approaches.

It was Einstein who said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.