You’re Not As Effective As You Think

You’re Not As Effective As You Think

Statistically, it’s very likely that you overrate the effectiveness of your organisation.


The above chart shows two distributions.

The blue curve – the Rightshifting curve – shows the distribution of knowledge-work organisations vs effectiveness. Note the median is at 1.

The red curve shows how organisations typically rate themselves re: effectiveness.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect says that unskilled individuals will rate themselves and their abilities higher than is accurate. I have regularly seen this happen in groups – such as companies and the like – too.

“If you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent. […] the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.”

~David Dunning

The key consequence to this is that these kinds of unskilled groups believe they are doing much better than, in fact, they are – and thus will see much less reason to put effort into improvement, seeing the gains to be had as marginal.

Note also that highly skilled individuals and organisations tend to rate themselves and their abilities lower than is accurate. In other words, organisations that have things working effectively tend to believe that other organisations have things working fairly effectively, too.

What To Do

How might we begin to do something about this over-estimation of effectiveness by the vast bulk of (ineffective) organisations out there?

“…grossly incompetent students improved their ability to estimate their rank after minimal tutoring in the skills they had previously lacked, regardless of the negligible improvement in actual skills.”

In other words, this suggests organisations that invest in minimal exposure to how more effective organisations work will begin to improve the accuracy of their estimates of their own effectiveness. And thereby gain a better picture of the significant benefits to be had from improving things.

So, even though you’re unlikely to believe just how ineffective your organisation presently is, just a little investigation and learning might tell you otherwise.

This premise – that folks would see more point in improving things if only they knew how relatively ineffective their organisation was – is what spurred my work on Rightshifting, as a public awareness campaign, in the first place. And continues to energise me and the whole Rightshifting community.

– Bob




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