One of the most effective tactics for blocking transformative change is to demand more research, analysis and consultation before acting. It seems so reasonable, but what is really happening?
Research and evidence are vitally important. However, repeated investment in research that confirms what has already been found is a waste of time and money.
I refer to it as a ‘doom loop’ and it’s a common reason for failure of reforms. Leaders in business, industry, government and the media need to know how to spot when an industry is experiencing a failure to innovate.
There are three clues that tip you off.
Firstly, you see vocal minorities publicly calling for more analysis and consultation, while criticising what has already been done. Most likely, the real issue is that these groups simply don’t like what the previous work found.
Secondly, you see more and ‘better’ consultation. Surveys, focus groups, submission processes and workshops proliferate and are rolled out on an ever-larger scale.
How often do you see businesses and communities weary of yet more consultation where nothing seems to come of it? Here, people are really just conducting what I call ‘rain dances’, where lots of visible activity is generated with attention on improving the quality of the dancing – none of which has anything to do with rain.
Thirdly, the number and cost of reports by industry organisations and consultants escalates. Research providers and ‘big brand’ consultancies end up doing very nicely out of this pattern.
If you’re hearing splinter groups and factions demanding more analysis and consultation. And seeing lots of fancy ‘dancing’ and expensive, glossy reports that raise expectations and lead to little or no change, you know your industry is stuck in a doom loop.
Incremental or no change is the likely outcome.
Breaking out of the doom loop begins with placing value to the majority of industry businesses first, rather than appeasing minority interests first.
In a commercial environment, leaders responsible for repeated investment with weak or no results are not in the role for long. The same principle needs to hold true for reform of industry institutions.