How many of these situations do you recognize?

  • a new manager gets hired and makes immediate changes to things that were already working
  • a new head-of-state initiates a new economic program even though the economy was already in an upswing
  • investors who make trades more often than they should because they feel like they “have to do something”
  • the guy at the grill who’s constantly flipping the steak because…..well….we’re not sure

What do these situations all have in common?  They involve someone doing something, making changes, or taking action because it’s what they’re expected to do…..not because it’s actually needed or helpful.

In other words, “doing nothing” seems wrong.  

We’ve got to do something!  But, often, “doing something” means flipping the steak and ruining the sear.  Or making a trade when you should have been patient.  Or taking that promotion and sitting back to observe what’s working and leaving it alone.

Doing nothing is hard.  It doesn’t feel right.  Even though, sometimes, it’s exactly what you need to do.

Take soccer, for example.  (Er, I mean “football”.  Apologies to my non-U.S. readers!)

Anyone football fan can tell you the importance of a penalty kick:  it’s an opportunity for a team to kick the ball into the goal from just 12 yards away with only one person standing in the way:  the goalkeeper.

Why is this a big deal?  Because, in professional soccer, the goalkeeper only blocks the kick about 15% of the time.  This is because of the size of the goal and how fast the ball travels.

Short version:  the goalkeeper has to actually decide which way to jump to block the ball BEFORE the ball leaves the kicker’s foot.

Read that again.

Now, here’s what’s interesting:  statistics show that the goalkeeper will save 33.3%goals if he stands rooted between the goalposts….but he will only save 13.5 goals if he tries to leap to one side or the other.

Standing still is the better strategy.  By more than 200%.

Yet 93.7% of the time, the goalkeeper will jump.

Why?

Because a million people are watching and “doing nothing” feels wrong.
Because “standing still” is non-intuitive.
Because “not doing anything” feels like you’re not doing your job.

 

And so we act.  We do something.  We jump in and start moving things around.

This is not an argument for doing nothing.  But it IS an argument for making sure that “doing something” makes sense before you do it.

Can you think of a situation in your business when being patient and deliberately NOT taking action resulted in a big win?  Leave your comments below!