Schroedinger’s Cat and Management – Who Knew?

Paul Hebert Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, Paul Hebert, Recognition

One of the things I try to do is connect with a very wide variety of input sources.  Ideas rarely come from a single point of view but are the result of a mash-up of disparate thoughts that somehow connect.

Scott Adams – creator of Dilbert does this for me on a pretty regular basis.  If you don’t subscribe to his blog you should – not always "work-approved" but always interesting.  WComicushen I read his comments, it reminds me of the movie "History of the World Part I" by Mel Brooks.  In the movie, Mel plays a "stand up philosopher."  I wonder if in 3,000 years our comedians will be our philosophers.  Or is it that philosophers are comedians.  Who knows? 

In any event, Scott Adams had a great post the other day that really hit home as a foundational idea relating to talent management within an organization.  To excerpt the important part:

"It’s nice to think that you can be your own person, true and accountable to no one but yourself, but I don’t think life works that way. We are what other people allow us to be. We exist more in their perceptions than in our own, if you had some way to add it all up and compare."

No Person is an Island

Managers must understand that most people have to know they have value and they do that based on input from others.  There are some very rare individuals who exist in their own world with little if any outside validation.  Most of the time we label these folks as eccentrics, crazies, weirdos.  But for most of us, the real test of value is the opinion of others.

In most organizations, we only get validation once a year – during review time.  This isn’t enough.  The main purpose of recognition within a company is to fill this gap in validation.  Companies must include a way to recognize and validate employees.  Existence isn’t enough.  Validation of existence is required.

For each individual, the validation is different.  For most senior management types, who get bonused based on company performance, watching stock values rise (or fall) is commentary on their performance.  Most of the rank and file, however, don’t have a direct connection to these metrics.  Managers must find a way to connect the employee to a metric that validates their existence. 

Who is the Witness

In Scott’s post, he says that people get married to have a witness to their life and the key to life is picking the right witnesses.   In the business world, Management is the "witness."  Unfortunately, most employees can’t pick their Managers.  If you have people who work "for" you, with you or around you – you are their witness – whether you like it or not.  And your job is critical to their performance and their ability to grow and be better each day.

I really like Scott’s reference to Schroedinger’s Cat – a thought experiment where a cat is sealed in a box with poison and two outcomes are possible – the cat is alive or the cat is dead.  Until someone observes the cat (opens the box) the cat exists as both alive and dead.  In other words, until someone witnesses the result of the experiment – there is no result.

Business is no different – until someone recognizes my effort – there is no effort.  The act of recognition creates the output.  I know – weird science. 

What have you witnessed in your organization today?  Make being a good witness a top priority, and your employees will see that you value them – and their effort.