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You’ve heard these types of comments before as descriptors of an individual who attracts a positive rating from leadership and is viewed as someone with the potential to go further in the organization.

“He can be counted on to deliver consistent results; he’s dependable.”

“She’s predictable; you get a few surprises from her work.”

Predictability Can Be a Negative

Predictability is often, if not always, looked upon as a strength; an attribute that leaders find “comfortable” and desirable.

Over my career, I noticed many predictable employees found their way up the career ladder, but these people didn’t add the greatest value to the organization.

I believe the easy and comfortable employee robs an organization of long term value because of their restrictive and conservative ways.

Here’s my thinking about unpredictable and predictable behavior:

1. Unwelcome Bedfellows

 A high comfort level implies that predictable employees follow the approach expected by the organization’s “establishment”; they follow the rules that govern acceptable behaviour.

Meeting leadership expectations can sometimes be unwelcome bedfellows to breakaway thinking and achieving glorious results. The best result can sometimes be achieved by NOT following the prescribed direction exactly, but by following your gut — but it requires risk-taking and the conviction of your ideas.

Predictable behaviour prohibits breakaway results.

2. Boredom

In many ways, being relatively certain of an outcome is uninteresting; the “amaze factor” is absent.

The capacity to discover something unexpected is stripped away, denying a result that presents a new opportunity that emphatically changes the direction of the organization. While you are busy doing the expected, you’re not on the outlook for creating a surprise that vaults your performance to another level.

Learning from what is achieved WHILE it is being achieved and then take whatever action is implied by what is learned is severely restricted.

Predictable behaviour is boring.

3. Equations

Acting involuntarily to a prescribed set of rules and behaviour means predictable folks’ actions can be formularized to a certain extent.

An equation — or some other tool that creates a relationship between inputs and output — can be used to determine the outcome of their actions with a high degree of precision.

It begs the question “If an algorithm can be constructed that uses a person’s action(s) to predict an outcome, why to use a human in the process?” You don’t need human value-add; use software to create it.

Predictable behaviour limits the human factor.

Collaboration in the Workplace-Being Unpredictable

4. Originality

Predictability suggests compliance and risk minimization which stultifies innovation and creativity.

People look for rules and governing policies to guide their behaviour and approach to problem-solving rather than finding the appropriate method to solve the problem at hand.

Original thought is missing in action in favour of dutifully following the rules and practices of the organization.

Predictable behaviour quashes originality.

5. Contingencies

Individuals who operate mechanically have difficulty creating a new approach to a challenge or problem if the accepted method doesn’t work.

A “Plan B” mentality escapes the predictable one; inefficiency and frustration are produced by continually attempting to reapply the same approach in hopes of achieving a different result.

Predictable behaviour misses the need to recover when Plan A doesn’t work out.

Predictability does help some individuals to be successful in a controlled environment, but there are long term opportunity costs to the organization that is always ignored.

Written By
Roy Osing is a former President and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience covering all the major business functions including business strategy, marketing, sales, customer service and people development. He is a blogger, content marketer, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead. You can also read more of Roy Osing's articles at his website.

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