ADRIAN GORE

FOUNDER, DISCOVERY

" I BELIEVE THERE ARE A HANDFUL OF COGNITIVE ERRORS – WHICH IF CORRECTED – CAN RADICALLY TRANSFORM OUR PERFORMANCE, OUR IMPACT AS LEADERS AND INDIVIDUALS, AND OUR ENTIRE LIFE."

- ADRIAN GORE, FOUNDER, DISCOVERY

One of these cognitive errors is a failure to recognise the impact that outliers have in our increasingly interconnected world. Take for instance, the decision to create the Vitality programme. It is one outlier decision that had, and continues to have, an enormous impact on our entire business. A few years after we launched our insurance business, an initial conversation with a chain of gyms about cross-selling sparked an entirely different idea: What if we created a programme that rewarded people for doing healthy things? What if members who were part of this program could go to the gym for free? I still remember vividly the 10 minutes it took for that idea to take shape. The decision to implement it transformed our business.

I use this example to illustrate the practical implication of our bias towards believing that we live in a world defined by a distribution around a stable average. In other words, we commonly believe that most events in the world follow a ‘normal’ Guassian or otherwise-known ‘bell’ curve, when this is not the case. We live in a largely Pareto world, where a small change in one variable is associated with a large change in another – and one individual or one decision can make an enormous difference.

IQ is a good example of a Guassian distribution, given roughly 95% of the population have an IQ between 70 and 130 while an equal 2% have an extremely low IQ (under 70), or extremely high IQ (above 130). Pareto-type patterns (named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, who in the early 20th century observed that 20% of people in Italy owned 80% of the land) are all around us, in the frequency of words we use when we speak, the pattern of countries winning Olympic medals, and the fact that nearly all tweets are generated by a quarter of the most active Twitter users.

This bias impacts our ability to solve problems effectively – because the approach to affecting change in each scenario is different. In a Gaussian world, all elements within a system must shift for the entire construction to change, whereas in a Pareto world, a few key choices and decisions shift the entire system — for better or worse. The implication for leaders of this Pareto world that we live in, is that radical innovation with the ability to result in systemic and profound change starts with bold outlier decisions, and that’s therefore where they should focus their time and attention.

Adrian Gore founded Discovery in South Africa in 1992 with a core purpose “to make people healthier and enhance and protect their lives”. Discovery is now a global financial services organisation renowned for the Vitality Shared-Value Insurance model, which incentivises behaviour change and integrates this into insurance and financial services pricing.

DISCOVERY

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