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Minute Monday #6: The absolution effect
What it is and how to counter it
Have you ever been in an environment where you’ve felt that someone, a team, or even the wider company just doesn’t seem to care about something you think that they should care about?
If so, you may have witnessed what I call the Absolution Effect.
I don’t know if there is another term for this (please let me know if you know of one), but this is the name I’ve given to it after seeing it numerous times.
The Absolution Effect is the phenomenon whereby the very existence of someone or a group of people responsible for something causes others to cease caring about that thing.
I’ve seen this in a bunch of situations in product and growth. Here are two common examples.
The existence of a dedicated growth organisation creates apathy amongst other teams around growth. “It’s OK; those folks over there are responsible for growth. We can just carry on working on these features.”
The existence of a data team means people overly rely on that team and, over time, organisationally lose the ability to self-serve to answer their questions of data.
What can you do about the absolution effect?
I think the key is to spread the seeds of cultural change.
Shape the environment.
That might be via over communication:
Repetition never spoilt the prayer!
Be a continuous voice of evangelism an help thoughtfully educate people on why it’s important for them to care still.
In the growth team example, help the broader R&D function deeply understand the product growth model, how retention is key, their role and duty in building a product with strong retention, and how they’re uniquely positioned to do that.
But beyond over communicating, look for other ways to bring other teams along.
Again using the same growth example there are several ways you could help to cultivate a culture of growth that you want to permeate the wider organisation.
Build paved roads to make it easier for other teams to apply growth principles and tooling to their work.
Involve the wider org in the growth process (democratise parts of the process like idea generation)
Celebrate and reward teams outside of growth that proactively demonstrate they’re considering growth in their work
And last but certainly not least, make sure incentives are supporting the behaviour you seek.
It’s hard work overcoming the absolution effect, but always worth the effort.
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