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Leadership Skills Training: More is Not Necessarily Better

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Posted 15 August 2014 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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You may find the following will help you with the development your leadership and management skills training.

More is not necessarily better

In order to lead others, you need to be able to make good decisions; nobody wants to follow a leader who makes terrible decisions.

In order to make good decisions, you need to have the right ideas in your mind. If your mind is operating according to a set of bad ideas, then you can expect only bad decisions, and that would lead to disaster.

To gain a competitive advantage it would be a good thing to eliminate any bad ideas that may be floating around in your head, and replace them with better ideas.

Then you will make only good decisions and your future success is almost guaranteed.

So, we are on the lookout for any common "bad ideas", which can infect the mind and cause otherwise intelligent people to make silly mistakes.

I would like to draw your attention to the following bad idea.

"If something is good, then more is better"

This is a bad idea. And it is a very common bad idea that leads many intelligent people to make silly mistakes.

Here are some fascinating examples of how the "more is better" idea causes people to mess up.

Many people figure that:

  • Since some chocolate is good, more chocolate is better.
  • Since some beer is good, more beer is better.
  • If some complaining is good, then more complaining is better.
  • If training heavy on the weights three times a week brings good results, then training six times a week, will bring double the results.
  • If raising taxes by 5% increased government revenues by 100 billion, another increase of 5% in taxes will increase revenues by another 100 Billion.
  • If running 10 miles is good for the heart, running 26 miles will be better.
  • If taking one paracetamol takes the pain away, taking 10 will make you feel even better.
  • If some perfume is good, more perfume is better.

The "more is better" idea is common because most of us came up with this idea when we were four years old. We thought then that if one sweet is good, more sweets are better. It seems such a simple and self-evident truth. And at Christmas, we figured that if some presents are good, then even more presents are self-evidently better.

More is better

And that idea of "more is better" was imprinted onto the mind over many decades and for many people it has remained an operating principle.

So there is a tendency for many to think:

  1. Ever more government control is better.
  2. Ever more power over others is better.
  3. Ever more military intervention is better.
  4. Ever more money given to the poor is better.
  5. Ever more alcohol is better.

But the truth is this: More is not necessarily better.

The contrary view to the "more is better" idea is called: "The law of diminishing returns".

"The law of diminishing returns"

The law of diminishing returns states that, in any particular context, "there is an optimum amount of X and any more or less than the optimum amount is less than the best".

So, it is true that some training on heavy weights will make you stronger and faster. But if you double the amount of training, you don't double the value. There is an optimum amount of heavy training and more effort is not only wasted effort, it is COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.

And, it is true that some government control of business will make the economy stronger and more profitable. But if you double the amount of government controls, you don't double the value. There is an optimum amount of control and then ever more government control is COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.

And, it is true that some worrying about what might go wrong will make you more cautious and less prone to make errors. But if you double the amount of worry and caution, you don't double your progress. There is an optimum amount of worry and caution; then ever more worry is COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.

And, it is true that some threat of punishments will motivate others to move. But if you double the amount of threats and punishments, you don't double their motivation. There is an optimum amount of fear that will result in more motivation, and any more fear is then COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.

So that you can ponder its meaning and make better decisions, the rule I want to leave in your mind, is this:

More is NOT necessarily better.
Rather, the following is true:

In any particular context, there is an optimum amount of X; then and more X beyond that point is not only wasted effort, it is actually COUNTERPRODUCTIVE."

More is better is usually a false idea.
From that law we can derive the following advice:
Find the optimum amount, do that amount; and then stop.

Examples of people who broke this law: Meaning they kept going beyond the optimum point and pushed too far, and as a result they were finally defeated: Napoleon Bonapart and Mrs Thatcher.

If they had stopped pushing they would have stayed on top.

Here is the more is better diagram. More is better is usually false.

Law of diminishing returns is usually a true idea

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