I think of Macon Leary often.
Macon, the main character in Anne Tyler’s book, “The Accidental Tourist”, was reeling after the murder of his son and painful separation from his wife. Adjusting to his solitary life, Macon proceeded to eliminate unnecessary effort in his life. He adopted a nondescript tracksuit as his uniform, alphabetised his pantry for easy access and sewed his sheets into something like a sleeping bag to avoid the need to make his bed.
I think of Macon whenever I systematise my life. As someone who dislikes wasted effort, I like to do things once and as efficiently as possible.
Take breakfast for example, I have all the elements to add to my oatmeal on a Lazy Susan in the pantry, so the next ingredient comes to me as if it’s on a production line. I don’t forget anything and it arrives at the point it is needed.
A Lazy Susan for work
Imagine if we had a Lazy Susan for work? What would that look like? A systematic way of getting answers about an issue at exactly the point you need them?
That’s effectively how I use behavioural economics. On my Lazy Susan are three main ingredients:
- Apathy (System 1)
- Paralysis (Paradox of Choice)
- Anxiety (Loss Aversion)
When I am helping a client through a business issue, we metaphorically spin the Lazy Susan and explore which of the three reasons for resistance to change is in play. Is it because the people you are seeking to influence:
- Can’t be bothered? (A system one issue);
- Are overwhelmed by everything you are telling them? (Paradox of choice); and/or
- Are worried about proceeding? (Loss aversion)
By probing these three questions you can flush out all possible reasons for resistance.
While Macon was using his regimented lifestyle to make the world feel safer, and stifled himself in the process, taking a leaf from his well ordered book can be enormously beneficial in business. By always starting at the same spot, clarifying what kind of issue you have, you will eliminate wasted effort and use your time in the most effective way possible.