The mental model of Reason Respecting, sometimes known as “Because Why”, is the idea that giving reasons behind requests make people much more likely to succeed at the task you’ve given them.
There are a few good examples of this, some of which almost seem counter-intuitive. The 1977 Copy Machine Study is a great example. In this study, people waiting in line to make copies asked the person in front of them if they could cut in, and gave a variety of reasons why. Even silly reasons, such as “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?” caused the vast majority of people to allow them to cut in.
Another common example of this is the idea of “Commander’s Intent”. As summarized in the Harvard Business Review:
Commander’s Intent is the definition and description of what a successful operation will yield. Good Commander’s Intent allows employees and teams to adapt the plan using improvisation, initiative, and adaptation to reach the original plan objectives.
Helping people to understand the “why” of a task is important for motivation, but can also help tactically. If people know why a certain task needs to be done, they’re more able to find unique solutions to the problem rather than just plowing ahead even if the initial plan doesn’t seem to be working.
Fortunately, this is a pretty easy concept to start using. The next time you give direction to someone, spend a few extra seconds to explain why. The difference between “the client needs that graphic by Thursday” and “the client needs that graphic by Thursday because they’re meeting with investors” only takes a few seconds to say, but can make a big difference in how things get done.
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