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The Surprising Value of Obvious Insights

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The Surprising Value of Obvious Insights

MIT Sloan Management Review,

5 min read
2 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Do you need to tell people the obvious? Yes, you do.

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  • Applicable
  • Eye Opening
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Counterintuitive, surprising insights might be the bad boys of people analytics: startling "ahas" that promise to shake up organizations and spur them to change. But in reality, it’s the gray-flannel “duhs” that make a bigger difference – the insights that everyone knows but often doesn’t practice. In a brief but eye-opening article for MIT Sloan Management Review, Wharton School organizational psychologist Adam Grant describes his own conversion to advocate of the blindingly obvious. Self-evident insights might not be exciting, Grant suggests – but you can count on them for solid results.


For impact, obvious insights often trump new facts.

Google ran a people analytics study on onboarding new hires. Among the conclusions appeared an old saw: Managers should meet their hires on their first day at work. Obvious, yes. But when Google reminded managers to put the received wisdom to work, results improved markedly.

People don’t necessarily need to hear new, unexpected insights. The obvious can make more of an impact. And surprising insights can backfire: Managers may dismiss ...

About the Author

Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he codirects the Wharton People Analytics initiative. He is the author of Give and Take, Originals and Option B, and the host of the WorkLife podcast.

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