It Has to be Easy – the Relative Value of Information
I was working with an executive team recently and one individual,
kept interrupting the conversation with an insisting statement of,
“It has to be easy or no one will do it” when referring to using a new
software application. What was he really saying? Why the resistance?
Wanting it to be easy, is usually a back-door reference to time, e.g. this
better not take much of my time because I’m busy, but it can also mean:
1. I’ve already rejected it, and am just giving you my preferred reason
for not learning a new system, and the rejection can be based on a wide
range of beliefs. Beliefs such as, this level of getting it done & documented
right will take too much of my time and may expose me and/or others
in the process.
2. It can also mean, I don’t think there’s any problem with how we work
currently, so unless this is all automated and requires almost no effort,
I’m not interested.
It got me wondering, if you think “It has to be easy or I”m not going to do it,”
what are you saying about the value you have placed on the
activity of information management?”
You might be simply indicating that there’s already a technology to
manage the task easily, so if a new application doesn’t match that level
of ease-of-use, you need to switch technologies.
But I don’t think that’s it. You don’t buy that either, do you???
My experience is that when most people say, usually emphatically,
“It has to be easy,” they are saying they have more valuable things
to do, so if this isn’t easy, and given that it is relatively not that important,
it won’t get their attention.
It’s funny, but one of the fantasies that quickly follows, is the wish
for the new technology to talk to each of the existing technologies being used,
so that the person can avoid the frustration or nemesis of duplicative entry.
It’s always interesting to me, that the same people who are concerned
about duplicative entry, don’t seem to have a problem ccing and reading
cc’d emails, even though that represents a duplicative daily task. When
pushed further, the duplicative entry time in a management system like
ManagePro is often less than an hour or two a month… so why the emphasis,
I think it’s a red herring. So, let’s go over the concern again, and then let
me pull something from recent brain research to explain.
So the concerns, actually more like road blocks, that get pushed up when
deploying an information management system that an entire business
team is supposed to use, as opposed to just the finance department, or the
analysts, are usually:
1. It has to be easy, meaning not involve much of my time
2. It can’t require any duplication of effort.
From one vantage point, these concerns simply disclose the individual’s
relative (low) value placed upon managing information better, as it is applied
to improved visibility, coordination, planning, etc. This position might be
better voiced as, “Who needs to manage information better, aren’t we doing
just fine with meetings and email”?
After all, from this perspective, it’s experience, who you know, gut instinct,
personal power, etc… that determines the outcome, not using information
to generate better decisions, quicker response time, less errors and mis-
directs, exposure of avoidable losses and ineffective strategies and practices.
When you look at this way, it sort of makes sense. Why manage information
better, if you are convinced your relationship practices, and notes to your
self, are doing the job just fine? On the other hand, when you operate
from this vantage point, you never know how much you are losing by
not using better tools… because you’re going off of gut, not data.
This response, also reflects something about how you use your brain, or
literally don’t. When you manage exposure to new ideas and habits,
including managing information, with a defense of your existing habits
and over-emphasis on concerns and fears of one sort or another, current
neuro-science indicates you are operating out of the deep interior of
your brain, known as the basil ganglia. This is your center that controls
movement, drives and habits, among other things, and
is particular sensitive to motives of threat and fear.
Our habit center is easy to follow. No new thinking required. It can
be deceptively reinforcing when we follow our habits and good things
happen… even if they aren’t actually linked. In fact unless you
actively work to build new habits (improve), most people don’t get
out of their habits until something bad comes along, and even then,
a surprisingly low percentage of us respond proactively.
So when we say, “It has to be easy” we’re usually saying we want to
stay in the habit center of our brain. Not only are we not engaging
in activities which require new learning, it also unfortunately means we
not making good use of our prefrontal cortex which does a much
better job of thinking ahead, planning, correctly analyzing what
drives what, etc.
The challenge of managing information better requires a higher order
of thinking than the basil ganglia provides. It requires the involvement
of the prefrontal cortex which supports both planning and making decision
based upon data (versus habit or comfort). There’s a great article by
Schwartz, Gaito & Lennic that covers this if you are interested in knowing more.
Adopting new systems to use information for better management outcomes
regularly encounters resistance. Often voiced as, “It has to be
easy or I’m not doing it,” it is accompanied by strong concerns about
the time involved and little interest in exploring the value or
returns. That resistance reveals an interesting disclosure of the value
system, and which part of the brain is being emphasized, by those
struggling with the perceived work of developing new information
The good news is that you control the habit center that pushes back on
new behaviors, not the other way around, it just requires some time
and work to replace the old habits and reach a new equilibrium.
So beware when you hear yourself saying “it has to be easy”, that’s
likely your habit center talking, and it doesn’t do a great job of
planning for the future or adapting to change.