Sunday, January 26, 2014

Is conventional wisdom limiting associations?



Sometimes conventional wisdom (aka best practices) limits our ability for success. 

Conventional wisdom sometimes leads to “we’ve always done it this way” thinking. 

And, following best practices can lead to group think and the lack of ideas and practices that build on the past and improve our results.

Over the last week, I discovered three examples about conventional wisdom being challenged and found faulty.


Golf: putt for dough
Conventional wisdom tells us that great golfers focus on great putting.

In Research Debunks Golf Myths by John Paul Newport via The Wall Street Journal notes:

  • Mark Broadie, one of the brains behind strokes gained-putting, has written a book that extends the strokes-gained concept to the rest of the game, from tee to green. "Every Shot Counts." It is based on his database of more than 100,000 shots hit during 1,200 actual rounds on 10 different courses. 
  • The No. 1 shibboleth (e.g., belief) Broadie's research debunks is that putting is golf's most crucial skill. From 2004 to 2012, across all tournaments that ShotLink recorded, putting contributed only 15% to the scoring advantage that the top 40 Tour players had over the field.
  • On average putting contributes 35% of Tour winners' advantage. Driving contributes 28% of top players' advantage, and the main factor there is raw distance, not accuracy. The biggest factor in lower scores, however, is approach shot accuracy. It contributes 40% of the advantage that the Tour's top players enjoy over their peers.

Childhood leukemia (see David & Goliath)


Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants
  • Gladwell's account of the journey of Dr. Emil "Jay" Freireich is unforgettable. Freireich, the son of Hungarian immigrants, is raised during the Great Depression in Chicago and suffers through a childhood of great poverty and neglect. It makes him a hard and angry man and also gives him an unbreakable will. Those qualities serve him well when he becomes a doctor and leads a series of clinical trials of new drug treatments for child victims of leukemia. The trials force Freireich to confront suffering and dying children every day and to push himself and his patients to the limits of human endurance. "How Jay did it, I don't know," one doctor tells Gladwell. "But we do know, don't we?" Gladwell writes. "He had been through worse." The resulting "drug cocktail" regimen is now a standard cancer treatment and has saved thousands of lives.

Management contracts

  • In the Harvard Business Review piece, How Noncompetes Stifle Performance, On Amir and Orly Lobel write:
  • According to conventional wisdom, these agreements are crucial to innovation-driven businesses, because they help keep proprietary information and talent safe from the competition.
  • But noncompetes can be a double-edged sword. A growing body of evidence shows that innovation, productivity, and economic growth are all greater in regions where local laws don’t allow (or authorities don’t enforce) such contracts—most notably, Silicon Valley. Presumably, positive effects spread to many companies when employees are free to move around.

Closing thoughts for association executives

  1. What do you and your association do to avoid group think?
  2. How do you bring new ideas or tweek your existing programs?
  3. How can you follow “best practices” and yet avoid being trapped to the ways we all do something?

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