I recently tweeted out this image and it got some attention, so I went off trying to remember why I had created it. Several lovely clicks and reminiscences later, I found one of my typical curmudgeonly responses to a name drop, in a stimulating blog by @whatsthepont from a couple of years ago. So I just thought it would be worth the effort of sharing again to set the tweet into context…
You’ve got to be really careful buying a recipe for success from someone who once did something splendid, or worse, worked out the recipe from studying a couple of famous cases. The big HITS may just turn out to be something else #HindsightBiasClick
Good Practice Case Studies – you’re doing it wrong!
Okey dokey, I’m assuming the mention is a taunt? Well first of all, I can’t believe you’ve resisted the temptation to use a @snowded favourite, namely ‘retrosepctive coherence’.
Case studies have this phenomenon built in by definition. You see, what normally happens is someone who does stuff for a living, ends up doing something lush. Then a leadershipper sees it, usually amidst some random flesh-pressing and says “ooh that’s… nice… have you written it up?”
The newly appointed Casestudier panics! Shortly afterwards, they sit there, trying desperately to remember how they got involved in the first place and quickly realise it’s all a bit vague. So they work their way back through what happened. The experienced Casestudier will revert to sticky notes at this point, that can be rearranged to suit the story tellers art.
Then, while they are reminiscing (through a whole world of cognitive biases) it turns out that amongst all this loveliness something marvellous starts to reveal itself – I call it the Mystical Acronomicon. That moment of lucidity, of rational splendour when a logical process rises like a pheonix from the ashes of your memory, into an almost-perfectly formed acronym.
So the Casestudier, then sets to work typing up their Mystical Acronomicon as if it were the rational 3, 5, 7, 9, 12 step wand wave of inevitable success. At this point they often play with the acronym to pick trendier words and elevate the process by drawing a shape, putting the words in boxes in the shape, connecting the boxes with lines and raising the Mystical Acronomicon to the immortal rank of ‘model’.
Then in swishy presentations they explain how their success was formed in the womb of the Mystical Acronomicon. What we really know, is that it didn’t work that way. There were cock-ups, 2SF1SB, nice plans, frustrations, arseholes, inspirations and moments of delight all wrapped up in serendipity. The decisions they made at the time, were not made using the Mystical Acronomicon, because it didn’t exist. And even if it did, they didn’t really follow it, that’s called the endowment effect.
In the real world we have evolved to be much better at avoiding someone else’s failure, than mimicking their success. Go forth and fail and at the very least let your life become a lesson for others!
The rantypants above, was prompted by this @whatsthepont