Sunday was my first fitness event of 2019 and I was taught a lesson that crosses the line into work. The event was a 20 km cross country running event around a course using the tank driver training tracks in Dorset.
I take fitness and training seriously and combine training as part of my daily working schedule, so it makes me laugh sometimes when I look back at myself as a child at school as I was so “unsporty” and was always the last to get picked for football and rugby teams. This is probably why my sports as an adult are somewhat unconventional such as sailing, diving, snowboarding and obstacle course racing…Either way, I love the competition.
Anyway, yesterday was a lovely crisp sunny day, running across the Dorset country side with Mrs French by my side. We had a great stride, felt comfortable in what was our first event of 2019. The event was well signposted and at about 8km we eventually became aware that we were off the course, even though there were a good 150 people ahead of us.
So 150 people ahead of us had missed the signpost as we had done also meaning we ran nearly 3 km further than we should have done. Any potential for a PB was definitely off the agenda.
Whilst running back to the course and thinking about our folly, it made me realise that this was a classic case of herd mentality. My thoughts went back to business (as they often do when I am running long distance) and how easy it is for all of use to just blindly follow the crowd or the person in front of us. In my case yesterday, the sign was large and obvious, but I just blindly followed the person in front of me as did the 150 or so people ahead of me.
In 2008, Professor Jens Krause and Dr. John Dyer of Leeds university conducted an experiment where groups of subjects were told to walk in a random path inside of a big hall while not communicating with the other subjects. However, the researchers told a few of the subjects exactly where they should walk. Guess what happened? They discovered that the people who were told exactly where to walk started being followed by the subjects walking “randomly.” This is exactly what happened to me yesterday.
In our businesses, how often do we go into autopilot mode, blocking out all the signs because it is easy to just follow or do what we always have done? How often could we arrive at a better result if we only stopped to think about an alternative way of achieving the end goal or dared to be different? How often do we continue doing what we have always done just because we have always done it that way or because that is the established way of doing things?
Made me think, maybe you also?