Archiv der Kategorie: Communication

Communication consists of perception, thought models and communication behavior.

When the best becomes standard

It has always been difficult to form an opinion about companies, products, employers, employees, travel destinations, films, books, authors, and stage plays. The list could go on forever. Due to the fast pace of life, we have no time to familiarize ourselves with something so that we can form our own opinion. Since price no longer provides an indication, specialized valuers have developed offers that make the assessment for you. They regularly produce overviews that offer the rationale for decisions – product tests, employer rankings, technology ratings as well as restaurant and hotel guides and even book, theatre and film reviews. The more established the rating agency, the more standardized the rating scale – e.g. Michelin stars or the Gartner Group hype cycle. An example of these new business models are platforms that classify employers – Kununu, Great Place to Work, Glassdoor or Trendence. We are getting used to delegating assessments to others, knowing that not all stars and likes can be trusted. A bad rating is not in the interest of the rated company and consequently not in the interest of the valuing platform. This distorts reality: fake stars or the use of an external rating as a marketing tool.

The difficulties start with the description of the properties and the process of an evaluation. They end with charts, which are filtered and sorted until the company is placed on the front ranks. This makes everyone the best, the biggest, the most successful, the most effective, etc. This use of top rankings leaves no room at the top for the real leading companies. Not everything is mega-great-super. But what scaling’s are available for evaluation? The language offers at least three levels for grading properties.

  • The simple description
    Starting point are adjectives expressing characteristics and attributes of something or someone, e.g. the sensual description of colors (e.g. red, green, blue) and shapes (e.g. round, square, angular), sounds (e.g. loud, soft, strident), feelings (e.g. soft, rough, hot), smells (e.g. sour, sweet) and tastes (e.g. bitter, umami). We also describe economic, artistic, and moral qualities – the beautiful painting; the innovative smartphone; the trustworthy company. We describe cultures (e.g. pre-Columbian tribes in North America) and express quantities (e.g. many, hundreds). Sometimes we reach the limits of descriptiveness when words have to be invented, e.g. the German sitt for not thirsty; edutaining for educating entertaining.
    The unenhanced form of an adjective makes it easy to label all expressible facts and offers an introduction to an evaluation.
  • The valuing comparison
    It usually does not stop in describing something. We quickly begin to compare with something else. This generates priorities, rankings or super-/sub-ordination, which are unconsciously perceived and create a preference – if the balloon is redder than the other; if something round is described as rounder; if something strident is described as more strident; if a hint makes something sweet smell sweeter; when something bitter tastes even more bitter. An objective evaluation of right or wrong will be difficult after this proposition. These statements reveal a lot about the speaking persons, who use them to externalize their inner evaluation – as long as they don’t do, as if, in order to manipulate others.
    The heightened form of an adjective enables an evaluation in comparison to something similar and sets a standard with it.
  • The confining upper limit
    The ceiling of the evaluation is reached, when there is no further increase possible – the reddest red, the roundest round, the shrillest shriek, the sweetest sweet or the bitterest bitter. The objectification is attempted with appropriate measuring methods – if the wavelength of red (between 630 and 700 nm) is detected or the pungency of a chili is measured with the help of the containing capsaicin. Nevertheless, subjective perception can lead to different results. At the end of the day, everyone’s personal evaluation is valid for all of them – if something is by far the absolute, mega-super-duper Smurfeedurfee.
    This highest level of an adjective forms the upper end of the scale. In order to leave room for truly outstanding qualities to be evaluated, this superlative should be used very rarely.

Bottom line: Characteristics are the basis for our decisions. They always cover a range – from almost not perceptible to the maximum. The evaluations cannot always be measured objectively, but are rather left to the discretion of people, who have their subconscious scales. This goes so far that if the measured values do not correspond with the expectations, further measurements or no measurements at all are taken. This leads to the fact that rankings change as soon as the person making the assessment changes. For this reason, it has become common to say: Never trust any statistics that you have not faked yourself. For the top of the rating scale it is important that it is rarely used. The whole thing recalibrates itself from time to time by shifting these limits. Companies, departments, teams, and individuals have the task to be aware of their own scales again and again, so that everyone involved has a common understanding and that the best does not become a meaningless standard.

The boiling frog – the ideal metaphor for small changes

Everyone is happy in spring, when the sun invites to go for a walk. If you live in a climate zone that had harsh winters and a late spring, then maybe you feel climate change as improvement. If you overlook the fact that this climate shift is not getting to an end, but you are also happy about the warming, you easily fall into the trap of the boiling frog – when small changes lead to dramatic upheavals in the long term.

Not the large disruptions put us in an unwanted position, but the set of small, accumulating deviations that happen unnoticed. In order to be able to take timely countermeasures, an early warning system is needed in addition to the existing key figures, which also draws attention to small shifts. The following points can help.

  • Pay attention!
    These small modulations, which cannot be measured, only reach our subconscious. For this reason, we need to develop a sensitivity that makes us aware of it. The frog only notices the slow heating when it is too late.
    We should listen to our gut feeling that will show up in meetings with recurring little teasing’s, decreasing conversations with stakeholders or with imperceptibly fewer assignments.
  • Set priorities!
    Apathetic networking for not missing any signals, is the wrong way to deal with this creeping change. Since the thresholds must be established in our subconscious, we need a few areas to which we adjust our attention. An objective assessment of the water temperature could help the frog.
    Possible focal points are relationships with customers, suppliers, partners, the management level, colleagues, employees and above all family and friends, or developments in politics, business, society, technology and law.
  • Question the results
    Mainly, the small changes in the here and now sink unnoticed in the flood of sensual stimuli. We do not add up the many small, albeit continued increases and decreases. Our intuition does not recognize the accumulating character of many small mutations. The frog lives self-satisfied in his presence, which does not frighten him as long as the temperature increases by only 0.002°C per second.
    If you become aware of certain modifications and recognize a pattern, you should consider what it means – the continuous increases of fees; long-term small increases in consumption; slowly declining numbers of visitors.
  • Foresee the further development!
    After calculating the sum of the past experiences, we need a feeling for the further course. For this purpose, we need to perpetuate the developments out of the past into the future. Since these are preliminary assumptions, it is not enough to develop a future, but you should develop several future scenarios, which show alternative consequences. Despite his modest surroundings, we cannot expect such an abstract assumptions from the frog.
    In 1972, the Club of Rome demonstrated the limits of growth by extrapolating the measurements at the time into the future – even if, despite more evidence in the meantime, many people still doubt that global warming is happening. We also can investigate the future with simple questions: What happens, if the little teasing’s continue, if the contact to stakeholders gets lost, or if the funnel continues to shrink?
  • Initiate countermeasures!
    Since the challenges are gradually growing, only small countermeasures are required at an early stage – but they are unavoidable, if you don’t want to fatalistically surrender to the development. If the changes are big enough that the frog notices them, he will get to safety in time.
    We can refresh our relationships through regular contact or investigate, evaluate and keep in check conspicuous internal and external developments.

Bottom line: If we turn away from the noticeable, big disruptions, to the innumerable small changes, which rain down on us everywhere and at any time, then we quickly realize that not only the thunderstorm, but also the long-lasting drizzle drenches us completely. In order to be able to better assess the possible consequences of the small fluctuations, it helps to develop a personal early warning system: Observing attentively, following centers of gravity, questioning results, anticipating the future, setting up countermeasures. The metaphor of the boiling frog comprehensibly conveys the long-term trap of small changes, which turns small changes into mature difficulties.