As a part of my work these days, I am learning about organizational cultures and behaviors. I am reading a book called Corporate Cultures by Deal & Kennedy. The book is not great, but it does have some interesting insights. It is in this book that I found the Dummy Theorem.
The theorem states that in any group of ‘n’ people, ‘K’ of them are dummies, and the ratio of K over n is a constant greater than 2/3. In other words, in any group of people 2/3 of them are dummies. This is so because within a peer group, people self-select themselves into dummies and non-dummies based on their perception of themselves vis-à-vis their peers.
How do smart manages use dummy theorem in an organizations? The Chairman of Mitsubishi was once interviewed on the subject of lifetime employment in Japanese industries. “How do you deal with people who start performing badly?”. He replied “We try to see if there is something we can change to improve his performance. If we cannot understand the cause we promote him” !!!!!!
(BTW, he had statistics to prove that this works. 72.4% of the times promoting a person improved their performance)Sounds rather unintuitive? The answer lies in dummy’s theorem. By promoting him you are improving his perception of himself with respect to his peers.
There are other uses to this theorem as exemplified by The Dutch Admiral’s paradigm. It is possible to influence the perception of a peer group as to who in the group is a dummy or a nondummy. The paradigm gets its name because of two junior officers in Dutch navy who made a pact. They decided, when they were in various navy social functions they would go out of their way to tell people what a great guy the other guy was. They would appear at a cocktail party and say “what an unbelievable person Charlie is. He is the best man in the Navy” or “did you hear about the brilliant idea Dave had”. They revealed the pact to the public the day both were made admirals – the two youngest admirals ever appointed in the Dutch Navy.
The theorem reverses the old notion “seeing is believing” to “Believing is Seeing”. Thus the dummy’s theorem concludes “as long as you can advance your perception of yourself in comparison to others, you will continue to advance”
Isn’t that an amazing thought. Although I was skeptical about the theorem when I read it first, I changed my mind as I got thinking about it more deeply. Infact I could recollect so many real life examples of people who have just advanced by managing perceptions.
Can you think of any examples in your work place? What are your thoughts on the theorem?
Corporate Cultures by Terrence E.Deal and Allan A.Kennedy