Here is the insight in Stephen’s own words (transcript lightly edited for readability). Enjoy!
Imagine a retail store, two teams competing.
One team is evaluated on how much they sell, that is, the cash register determines the winner.
The second team’s cash registers are not involved — they are evaluated on how well they serve the customers.
If a customer needs you to spend an hour helping them out with a problem, you do it.
If they are best served by a competitor down the street, you send them there.
You are evaluated on your level of service.
Now, you would think that the team focused on the cash register would sell more.
Paradoxically, what we found is that the teams focused on service do better in the long run and this points out something which I call The Performance Paradox.
The Performance Paradox is basically this phenomenon we see where paradoxically, the more you focus on the goal, on the outcome, on the future, the less likely you are to achieve that outcome.
We see this in sports, as athletes get closer and closer to a major milestone, for a variety of reasons (part of it involving stress), they perform at lower levels after they hit that milestone… like at the 4000 hit or the 300 home run level, they start to relax and perform better.
We see the same phenomenon in the world of innovation, when people are focused on the goal, on the outcome being measured, on the number of patents, on the number of ideas, on the amount of production that is created, they actually paradoxically perform worse.
Creativity and innovation is a process and what we need is people to be focused on the present moment, doing what they need to do today, that will best serve the company in the long run.
If they get too focused on where they’re going, they will perform worse, so check your organization, check the team.
What are their stress levels? Are they getting too focused on the outcome and therefore ignoring the quality issues right in front of their face? If so, take corrective action.
People who are measured on the process on doing what they need to do today they always significantly outperform those that are focused on the future.
How can you apply this great insight from Stephen in your own business?
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