Inspire with obvious insights

Sociologist Murray Davis once stated this: “If you want to be interesting, challenge the (weakly held) assumptions  of your audience”.  However, it may be interesting to add a nuance here.

Some weeks ago, I spoke at a leadership conference in Germany and what I typically do in my keynotes is not only highlighting the counterintuitive, the unexpected or the overlooked.  I especially focus also on obvious insights.  I deeply believe there is a high value in obvious insights.  It’s not a must to always put such a high premium on the unexpected.  Yes indeed, the banal is not boring at all.  Even more, spreading obvious insights in the workplace is often the most powerful force for change.  And why?  Because common sense is not always common practice.  If you would ask managers what “smart productivity” looks like – just to take an example – they will perfectly explain you the critical factors.  However, the key is to get them to act on that insight, and that’s where the obvious can help.

What I do as a speaker – and what leaders could also do on a daily basis – is this: I try to make obvious insights more intriguing.  It’s difficult to explain how I do that, but let me give an example.  You can make obvious insights more interesting and more impactful by quantifying the big impact of small changes.  Take this example: is it obvious that you will be more productive if your desk is near a high performer? Probably.  But would you have guessed that sitting near a single star appears to boost your productivity by 15%?  Probably not.  Is it obvious that you will be more motivated if you find out how your work benefits others?  Of course.  But did you know that meeting a single person who benefited from your work could be enough to double your effort and triple your productivity?

Voilà,  do you get the point?  Your data don’t always have to say something new if they say something true.  And that’s how obvious insights can have real impact.