First, I was reminded by a friend how differently two people can recall a verbal exchange that simply did not quite rise to the necessary level for communicating.  Ugh.  Here we both were after some time: one still wondering what was meant by the words he heard and the other not wondering at all about the exchange, because he knew what he meant when he spoke.


Next there was an episode of two friends tackling a small household project: one person ready to jump in and get started and the other unwilling to dive in until there was a mutually understood plan for the work.  These two people know about this difference in approach, but that doesn’t make the necessary conversation easy.  Communication does not occur and frustration sets in.


Last, consider this quote, “If your people aren’t informed by you, there’s a good chance they’ll be misinformed by others,” fromPatty McCord’s book, Powerful – Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility.  I have not read this book.  For purposes of this writing, I would hope the author raises the possibility that misinforming may in fact come from self.


This idea is not new, but it surely is important.  That is, communication typically requires conversation: all parties willing to get out of their own heads (i.e., what we “know” we mean) and invite other participants to join in understanding. It’s in fact why great authors need great editors.  Editors help question and clarify what an author means.


For example, as a leader of a project team, give the essential elements of a new project and then stop telling (i.e., talking).  Ask your team:


  • What have I not shared that would be helpful for you to know before we begin this work?
  • How might this work plan be improved from your perspectives?
  • What suggestions do you have to break the project into meaningful parts?
  • When does it make sense to bring the whole team together for status reporting?
  • If you have questions or need tools or information, do you know what resources are available?


In other words, remind yourself that telling people what you know, even as the leader of a team, is likely not sufficient verbal activity.  If communication is indeed the experience of all participants getting all of the information they need for understanding and engagement, we must work to achieve it. Our teams, as well as our families and friends, will be better for that work.

Curious about a new term, I recently checked a definition of ludic loop: doing something over and over again because every once in a while you get a reward.


Considering the definition and how it might apply to the workplace, one imagines its usefulness in several situations.


For example:

  • Individual Level: As a manager dealing with a ‘problem employee’ ask yourself a hard question: are you trying to address that problem the same way over and over again? If yes, stop the ludic loopiness.
    • Take a fresh look at the situation and use a new, better approach.
    • Before the next conversation with that employee ends, be certain you have a clear mutual understanding of what is expected going forward.
  • Team Level: Put some time in your next team meeting agenda for a new discussion item with an opportunity for creative problem solving. During that meeting, share the term and come to a team understanding of its definition.
    • Before the meeting ends, ask what is happening within the team that may fall into ludic loopiness.
    • Collect ideas and identify one that seems to grab people’s attention.
    • Use collective creativity to plan for changed behaviors so that particular loop is no longer preventing team success.
  • Self Level: Do you get to the end of too many days without completing urgent items on your To-Do list? That’s another potential ludic loop.
    • What changes will you make to better manage your work day?
    • What rewards will you experience when the loopiness is overcome?


Use these ideas to identify and overcome the ludic loopiness within and around you.

Remember the last time you heard an idea for the first time – or bought a new car or heard the really unusual name your friends gave their baby?  After that, you kept hearing it or seeing it over and over.

I have been the happy victim of this phenomenon* over the last few weeks.

  • I reviewed some useful business texts and re-discovered a favorite teamwork concept: Somebody, Nobody, Everybody.
    • If Somebody on the team makes a mistake, needs help, etc. – and Nobody steps up – then Everybody loses. Alternatively, if Somebody helps correct that mistake or clean up the mess or share information – then Everybody wins.
  • A colleague shared some ideas about what her organization calls “team service.” Hers is a food service business.  One example made her point:
    • The work standard is that guests are not served their entrée while empty appetizer dishes remain on the table. Team service directs that no matter your title or position, when a guest has finished an appetizer, you step up to remove that plate. You do not look away or pretend you didn’t notice the empty plate.  Team service reflects well on everyone.
  • A friend described a recent positive experience as a hotel guest. While she was complimenting one of the individuals who had served her well, he shared:
    • As an individual contributor, he can fully control two things: service and cleanliness. He understands that his consistent attention to getting those two things right helps his team and the entire hotel.

Over the next several weeks, I will continue to observe more situations that support what these episodes demonstrate: that we each need others on our teams to succeed.  Details will vary but each situation will offer opportunities to learn, build skills and reinforce knowledge.  What a happy phenomenon.

* In case you’re wondering – as I would be wondering – the phenomenon has been named.  The term Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon was invented in 1994.  Then in 2006, the more colloquial “frequency illusion” term was coined.