When Do We Get Small?

When Do We Get Small?

When do you admit to yourself you have the wrong perspective?

I heard a very cute story on a podcast recently that helps make this point.  A woman was sitting in the middle seat on a plane and a cute little girl about five years old sat next to her in the aisle seat. Her family was sitting in the three seats across the aisle. This was the girl’s first plane ride and she was very excited.

After takeoff when the plane was airborne the girl looked-up at the woman and asked, “When do we get small?” Kind of a silly question, the woman first thought. But after a short conversation she discovered the question was not so silly after all.

Because the little girl’s only experience with planes was to watch them take off, fly away, and then slowly get smaller, the girl assumed the plane and its passengers got smaller after take-off. Given the girl’s limited experience, it was actually a very logical question, yet her perspective was wrong.

This happens all the time to us adults, too. We develop perspectives over the years based on our experiences that might just be wrong or, at least, out-of-date. I think effective leaders are those people who are wise enough to know when their perspectives need to be refreshed and look around for people and information that can help re-frame their positions.

Here are four ways my perspective has been altered this past week.

Artificial intelligence (AI) Will Impact How We Hire. In a very insightful Fortune article Where Does the Algorithm See You in 10 Years  I learned how hiring software is being developed that will screen applicants based on answers to well-researched behavioral questions that are more predictive of success. The article points to five examples of predictive behavior that might require me to change my perspective on how we screen and hire people.

  1. GPAs and test scores and even college education are not really predictive of job success.
  2. Grit not IQ is more predictive of job success.
  3. Experience by itself is not predictive of success in a team environment.
  4. Experience in a competitor’s business does not predict he or she will have success in your business.
  5. Facebook pictures of people partying and drinking is not predictive of whether someone will be a successful team member. However, comments about drugs or race is predictive of sub-standard performance.

Consider Using an M&M Scenario When Hiring. In a fascinating Freakonomics podcast host Stephen Dubner interviews David Lee Roth of Van Halen fame. David Lee Roth, who is one of the brightest rockers around, devised a very quirky way to screen for whether a particular location’s set-up crew followed the band’s very strict technical requirements. (Van Halen, like KISS, was one of the first groups to use complicated light shows and lots of performer action. So if a stage wasn’t wired and structured correctly it could be quite dangerous.)

David Lee Roth helped draft the written instructions for promoters and local set-up companies. These instructions included very specific food requirements. Buried in these instructions was the requirement that a bowl of M&Ms be available just off-stage AND this bowl contain no brown M&Ms. When Roth arrived for rehearsal on the day of the show, he looked at the bowl. If it had brown M&Ms, he knew he and his stage manager should do a more thorough equipment check because he had no confidence the local company followed all the instructions.

I am now thinking we should use an M&M-type of exercise when we hire someone where details are very important.

Keep Meeting Sizes to Seven People. In his book Time, Talent, Energy Michael Mankins of Bain & Company writes a great deal about how meetings sap productivity out of businesses. He also notes that if the purpose of a meeting is to make a decision or develop a plan of action, keep the size of the group to seven people. For every person past seven the likelihood of achieving a successful outcome drops by 10 percent.

I thought of Mankins’ point earlier this week when I was in a productive meeting with seven people in it.

Try Using Podcasts to Change Your Perspective. If you are like me you spend lots of time in a car or walking or running. One efficient way to open your mind and possibly change your perspective is to listen to podcasts. Here are four podcasts, all available through i-Tunes, which help me change my perspective:

  1. Freakonomics
  2. Hidden Brain
  3. Radio Lab
  4. This American Life

I also listen to several business podcasts found on this Top-10 list from Fast Company10 Great Business Podcasts. I especially enjoy the first two, Start-upand Planet Money.

So, every time you find yourself trying to hold onto a perspective that just might be wrong, think of the little girl on the plane and ask yourself, “When do we get small?” It will put a smile on your face and maybe you’ll go look for other ways to change your perspective.