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Why We Focus on Trivial Things

The Law of Triviality

The Law of Triviality

Also known as “bike-shedding" the Law of Triviality states that the amount of time spent discussing an issue in an organization is inversely proportioned to its actual importanceMinor issues will be discussed more, while complex issues will be discussed less.

Bike-shedding happens because the simpler a topic is, the more people will have an opinion on it and thus more to say about it.

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Why We Focus on Trivial Things

Why We Focus on Trivial Things

https://fs.blog/2020/04/bikeshed-effect/

fs.blog

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Key Ideas

The Law of Triviality

Also known as “bike-shedding" the Law of Triviality states that the amount of time spent discussing an issue in an organization is inversely proportioned to its actual importanceMinor issues will be discussed more, while complex issues will be discussed less.

Bike-shedding happens because the simpler a topic is, the more people will have an opinion on it and thus more to say about it.

Bikeshedding explained

The metaphor is as follows: Imagine a financial committee meeting to discuss a three-point agenda.

  • A proposal for a £10 million nuclear power plant
  • A proposal for a £350 bike shed
  • A proposal for a £21 annual coffee budget

The committee normally ends up running through the nuclear power plant proposal in little time because it's too advanced to really get into it.

The bike shed proposal takes much longer as everyone knows what it is and has an opinion that they want to air about it.

As the committee moves on to the coffee budget, suddenly everyone is an expert. _Before anyone realizes, they spend longer discussing the £21 coffee budget than the power plant and the bike shed combined.

Having an opinion

The simpler a topic, the more people will have an opinion about it. However, when we mostly understand a topic, we feel compelled to say something, lest we look foolish.

With any topic, we should seek out the inputs from those who have done the work to have an opinion. If we want to contribute, it should be something valuable that will improve the outcome of the decision.

Strategies for avoiding bike-shedding

  • Have a clear and focused purpose for your meeting. A specific purpose for the meeting filters all other decisions, including who should be attending.
  • Understand that the most informed opinions are the most relevant.
  • If your purpose is to make a decision, consider having "fewer cooks in the kitchen."
  • Getting the result you desire depends on having the right people in the meeting.
  • Ensure to have a designated individual in charge of making the final judgment, not a committee.

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  2. Identify the objectives of a possible solution.
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Be realistic about the risks

Our natural bias is to start by imagining all the things that will go horribly wrong if we disagree with someone more powerful. Yes, your counterpart might be a little upset at first, but most like...

Decide whether to wait

You may decide to hold off voicing your opinion if you want to gather your army first. People can contribute experience or information to your thinking — all the things that would make the disagreement stronger or more valid. 

Also, delay the conversation if you’re in a meeting or other public space. Discussing the issue in private will make the powerful person feel less threatened.

Identify a shared goal

Before you share your thoughts, think about what the powerful person cares about. You’re more likely to be heard if you can connect your disagreement to a “higher purpose.” 

State it overtly then, contextualizing your statements so that you’re seen not as a disagreeable underling but as a colleague who’s trying to advance a shared goal. 

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Develop perspective taking
  • Put aside your feelings so that you can concentrate only on the other person’s perspective.
  • Use open ended questions that can help you draw out the interests and motivation that the person may not be verbalizing.
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  • Remove any personal intentions you may have, so as not to project them on to the other person.
  • Using what you know about the person, their background, their mood, their intentions and expectations,  imagine how they are seeing the current situation.
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Using perspective taking

When you break it down, almost every aspect of business involves an element of negotiation. 

By honing your perspective taking skills, you are much more likely to come up with solutions that are acceptable to all parties.