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How to Bust Myths and Always Find out the Truths

How to Bust Myths and Always Find out the Truths

Do you cringe every time Mercury is in retrograde? Do you avoid leaving your house during the full moon because you find that people act differently during that time? There are so many unpredictable aspects of life that it is tempting to find ways to make sense of our world by making false connections.

We trick ourselves into making connections.

Most people are convinced that the full moon makes other behave strangely even though there is no scientific evidence to support that claim.[1] This belief in the connection between two unrelated things is called an illusory-correlation bias.[2]

We’re all kidding ourselves when we don’t understand the difference between correlation and causation.

Causal analysis can help you determine whether two variables have a relationship base on correlation or causation. Through causal analysis you can identify problems, determine their causes, and develop a plan to correct the situation.[3] When two variables correlate, it means that they have a linear relationship.[4]When you wore your lucky shoes and nailed that job interview, there is a linear relationship between the shoes and the interview.

Causation is the extent to which the two variables depend on one another. When the sun beats down on pavement, we know that the pavement will be warm. The sun causes the temperature of the surface to rise. In this case the sun and the heat of the pavement have both a correlative and a causative relationship. Your lucky shoes didn’t cause you to ace your interview, though.

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How can we apply causal analysis to our lives?

Wouldn’t it be nice to understand which variables really led to your success instead of giving all your power to your lucky shoes? Identifying root causes not only enables us to prevent problems, but it can help us understand the great things we are already doing. Maybe on the day of your interview, you were confident, prepared, and passionate. Give yourself some credit!

To use a practical example, causal analysis could show a restaurant manager that the full moon isn’t what led to the rush of uncooperative customers at dinnertime. During that shift, the most inexperienced employees were scheduled to work together on the busiest night of the week, which happened to coincide with the full moon. The food came out slowly, which frustrated the servers. The customers were unhappy because they had to wait, and their dinner got cold in the process.

If the restaurant manager continued to blame the moon, he or she would miss an opportunity to prevent another disastrous night. In the future, the manager might choose to schedule more experienced and faster workers during the busiest nights of the week.

Bust through your illusions with a causal layered analysis iceberg

You can imagine your problem as an iceberg.[5] Perceptions about a problem, known as the litany, are the tip of the iceberg. Your belief that your day is ruined because a black cat crossed your path is part of the litany. Just below the surface, our iceberg supports the litany through social causes. Maybe you connect black cats to the worst day that you ever had.

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Causal layered analysis doesn’t stop there, though, and our goal is to break apart the illusory-correlation bias between black cats and the quality of your day. Perhaps in your culture, black cats are bad luck. Worldview is the third layer of your iceberg, and it lends support to social beliefs and the litany.

The lowest level of the iceberg is comprised of myths and metaphors. These are old beliefs that underpin worldviews. Many people think that black cats are bad luck because of a long-standing association between cats and witchcraft and the historical belief that cats smothered children while they slept [6]

When you recognize that you have constructed a false narrative, you can work to overcome it. A black cat may have crossed your path as you received bad news, and since it was such a terrible day, your mind easily associated the cat with something negative. This negative association was reinforced by culture, worldview, and myths. The cat has a correlative relationship to the bad day, but it didn’t cause it.

How can we avoid falling into the illusory-correlation trap?

Follow these steps to get to the core of a problem and verify causal relationships:[7]

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  1. Identify the problem. What are you trying to change about your business or your life?
  2. Compile data related to the problem. Include quantitative and qualitative data. You may have access to sales numbers or historical data. In other cases, your information may be anecdotal. All of it can play a role in getting to the root of a problem.
  3. Name potential causes for the problem. Be generous and note anything that comes to mind.
  4. Determine what you can do to correct the issue. What are the actionable measures that you can take to change your situation? If you named a variable that correlates to the issue but doesn’t cause it, then changing it isn’t going to have much effect. Real causative factors can have dramatic impacts when you change them.
  5. Identify sustainable solutions. While it may be tempting to attack a problem head-on, making changes strategically may work better. If all of your employees perform poorly, you could fire them. Chances are, this is going to have negative outcomes. Could you afford to retrain them instead?
  6. Engage in praxis. Most complex problems are a perfect storm of variables. Hold yourself accountable for making sure that your solutions work. Taking time to reflect and adjust your strategy gives you flexibility and enables you adapt to new variables as they arise.

It may also be helpful to use a Fishbone or Ishikawa Diagram to understand cause and effect relationships.[8] The diagram makes it easier to visualize the first three steps of causal analysis.

    In the above example, you can see the the problem is bad coffee. The categories that affect coffee quality (procedures, people, equipment, and material) are the ribs of the fish in the diagram. The arrows coming from each category name variables that could contribute to poor outcomes. After you’ve mapped potential causes, it will be up to you and your team to complete the causal analysis by developing, acting on, and evaluating your action plan .

    What’s the easiest way to identify causal relationships?

    The quickest way to find a solution is to view your problem objectively.

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    When we muddle our vision with cultural baggage and superstition, we lose sight of variables that do have a causal relationship to the issue. If you catch yourself falling victim to illusory-correlation bias, know that you are not alone. Many of us have blamed a red herring at least once in our lives. The trick is to use clear causal analysis so that we can disrupt negative patterns and discover better solutions.

    Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

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    Angelina Phebus

    Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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    Last Updated on January 6, 2021

    14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

    14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

    Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

    In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

    For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

    For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

    Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

    Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

    Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

    How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

    Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

    1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

    Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

    For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

    2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

    Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

    Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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    Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

    3. Create a System

    Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

    This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

    You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

    Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

    Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

    4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

    We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

    If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

    Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

    Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

    5. Use a Ratings Scale

    Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

    Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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    It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

    6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

    This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

    You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

    You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

    7. Offer Feedback Forms

    Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

    First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

    Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

    You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    8. Track Cost Effectiveness

    This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

    Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

    Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

    9. Use Self-Evaluations

    Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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    Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

    10. Monitor Time Management

    This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

    Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

      The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

      While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

      11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

      We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

      Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

      For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

      Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

      Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

      From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

      12. Utilize Peer Feedback

      This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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      Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

      Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

      It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

      13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

      When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

      Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

      Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

      14. Use an External Evaluator

      Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

      They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

      While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

      Final Thoughts

      These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

      The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

      The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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      Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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