Read the full article at Evening Standard.
You can spot an office Hippo a mile off, from that overpowering, err, smell of success, not to mention the sharp suit and the company car.
Yet the Hippo, an acronym for the Highest-Paid Person’s Opinion, is in fact modern management kryptonite, choking off innovation with a “yes men” bottleneck. They tell you what they think, you nod approvingly, while your own, lower-value opinion is rendered irrelevant. It’s not an elephant, it’s an hippopotamus, but it’s the biggest thing in the room.
Life is full of Hippos. Theresa May, by reputation, doesn’t like delegating, and has ditched David Cameron’s “sofa politics” for a more micro-managerial approach. Donald Trump’s leadership is all about the “me”. But while it’s tempting to fall behind the Hippo in the boardroom, it’s a counter-productive instinct.
Richard Nisbett, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, noted the Hippo problem in his book, Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking in 2015. “There’s no question that most business continue to operate on the Hippo principle,” he says. The fallacy is that the best way of deciding what to do within a business or a government is to take the Hippo’s opinion, rather than testing with hard data.
“The best decisions are based on solid evidence that has been tried and tested,” says Nisbett. But it can be difficult to dislodge the Hippo. “In fact, there are many practices that scientific psychologists and management consultants know to be much more effective than other practices, but which even highly intelligent people struggle to accept.” Job interviews, he says, are next to useless. “There’s almost zero correlation between a successful interview and successful job performance, and yet companies always overweight the interview when choosing an employee”.