When automobile manufacturers first put vanity mirrors on sun visors, they only put them on the passenger side. Their reasoning was that the passenger was usually a woman who had makeup to apply. The car was being driven by a man and men did not wear makeup.
Why do you figure that the manufacturers eventually started putting vanity mirrors over the driver’s seat? Did they come to believe that men also like to look at themselves in the mirror? Or was it that they suddenly discovered that women also drive cars?
I learned how to solve problems from a former partner named George. George taught me that when things appear to be illogical, you have to follow the money. If you can determine who will benefit financially from whatever you find puzzling, you can usually figure out why people are doing what they are doing.
With the sun visor conundrum the answer is quite simple: more women started buying cars.
Of course, human beings are not that simple. Sometimes they are motivated by things other than money, such as ego.
I was reminded of that recently by my granddaughter, whose name is Emily. Emily is four years old. Since her parents are doing a wonderful job raising her, Emily has a healthy ego.
Emily’s mother just gave birth. Emily now has a little brother. She is very excited about being a big sister.
Emily had a suggestion for the baby’s name. She told her mommy and daddy that she thinks that the baby’s name should be “Emily Two.” For some reason, they did not agree.
The nice thing about boiling all human behaviour down to money and ego (and I expect to hear plenty from psychologists who will undoubtedly tell me that I should stick to writing about law) is that it gives you a simple framework to solve problems.
First, follow the money. If people are acting in a manner which is consistent with their financial interests, you can predict what it will take to resolve the issue.
When you determine that people’s egos are driving them to act in a manner which is inconsistent with their financial interests, show them why they should actually be following the money.
Once upon a time, in my law firm, all of the partners had large offices. As the firm grew, management came up with a plan to subdivide each of the large offices into two. When we presented the plan at a partners meeting, the usual suspects objected because their egos were well developed, and they liked the larger offices. When we showed them what the per partner profits were going to be if we had to take on more space compared to what they would be if we divided the offices, they all got on board.
In my experience, although it may take some time, money will just about always trump ego eventually. If you need proof, think about all of those clients who vowed to fight their litigation to the ends of the earth ‘on principle’ and eventually caved when their principles became too expensive.
This article was originally published by Law360 Canada, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.