For a long time, scientists have been aware that hot water turns to ice faster than cold water does, but until recently, no one has had a credible theory as to why.
But if you asked most people whether cold water or hot water would freeze faster, most people will say cold water, because, that makes sense to us.
But sometimes, what we accept as the truth is not correct. In his fantastic book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ Dr Daniel Kahneman identifies that we have 2 systems of thinking.
System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and often without control. System 2 allocates attention and concentration to effortful mental activities and calculations.
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System 2 is for our highly diverse operations and all require our attention. Completing complex calculations, focusing on a single voice in a noisy room, parking in a very narrow car space, filling out a tax form, things like that.
So when you’re asked if cold water or hot water freezes faster, System 1 identifies it as an easy question and answers with ‘cold water’ which turns out to be wrong. We do this in business too.
When asked to improve their call centre teams’ average handle time, Managers often answer:
“I cannot manage my team’s Average Handle Time without adversely affecting quality”.
Back in my very first job in a call centre, I was asked by my manager to handle calls faster and my answer was exactly that. If I go any faster, it will impact the awesome level of quality I give.
This conclusion is the most common one I hear when I walk into a new contact centre to talk about how we might improve performance. This is a classic example of System 1 answering. Our immediate reaction is, ‘Sounds plausible to me – in fact, yes, if you rush through the calls then surely quality will be impacted. System 1 quickly analyses the statement and agrees.
It means statistically, we think there is a correlation between average handle time and quality performance. Unfortunately, this tends to be wrong too.
If you were to plot your AHT vs your Quality results on a scatter plot chart, you’d most likely see that there is no correlation between quality and average handle time. People with good quality sometimes have low average handle times and sometimes not.
I’ve been to dozens and dozens of call centres over the years and I have never found a correlation between Quality and Average Handle Time. It turns out, when we analyse the data, you can have a low Average Handle Time and maintain strong quality performance.
So, our initial reaction or answer can sometimes be wrong. What generally accepted ‘truths’ might actually be incorrect in your workplace?