Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Same Movie, Different Cast

That's how I'd describe many workplace problems. Hang around long enough in the HR, employment law or management consulting fields and you'll start to see a pattern.

I've encountered clients who thought my ability to predict coming events was uncanny. They didn't know the "same movie, different cast" phenomenon, perhaps because we all like to think of our environments and challenges as unique.

"This place isn't like other places," they say. That is rarely true. In most cases you can practically recite the dialogue.

Now that has its drawbacks. If you fall into mentally completing their sentences before they finish them, you are not really listening. You will miss something and that one tidbit may make a big difference. That's why you need to give a fresh look and save your "same movie, different cast" conclusions for later. At the start, it helps to ask yourself, "How is this different?" 

Keep asking that.


Daniel Richwine said...

The reason predicting events is so useful I think isn't so much so you can actually predict events, but it clues you in so well when something doesn't turn out like you expect. There's a plot twist in the movie, all the more shocking because all clues pointed to something else happening.
Such moments of cognitive dissonance are what I live for. It's an indication that I don't understand as well as I thought I did, and therefore there's an opportunity to learn, my favorite activity. Without the effort of prediction, it's hard to know if you understand as well as you think you do.
Prediction is proof of actual understanding. My father had a great story to illustrate the point. He was in the aerospace engineering business back in the 60s when lots of exciting things were happening. He told of one engineer who would watch the results of a test, furiously scribble some calculations, then announce "I would have predicted that!"

Michael Wade said...


Great story!

That's a good argument for "pre-mortems" where possible causes of problems are identified in advance.