Yelling, praise and learning

Here’s an interesting concept from Leonard Mlodindow’s The Drunkard’s Walk – How Randomness Rules Our Lives: “… the human mind is built to identify for each event a definite cause and can therefore have a hard time accepting the influence of unrelated or random factors …”

In reality, every situation has a status quo – the more commonly encountered state. The usual behaviour, or quality, or ability.

Yelling at someone when they make a mistake only appears to make them do better the next time. Because the failure is often a drop out of the status quo state. The person only appears to do better next time; in reality he is simply returning to his status quo state.

Similarly, giving praise for someone’s extraordinary performance has no obvious ongoing effect because the person will tend to return to the status quo soon enough.

This resonates with Seth Godin’s idea that most successes come from random factors than any other consciously directed factor like “hard work”; despite our strong desire to believe so. Read Seth’s book: Outliers – The Story of Success, ISBN 978-0-141-03624-3.

What implications does this have for education and training, and also business improvement and excellence? To get a more realistic sense of change, do we measure the total change in the status quo over time, and ignore the spikes that are the extraordinary failures and achievements?

The Drunkard’s Walk – How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodindow ISBN 978-0-141-02647-3.
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