Women Love Drama?

“Women love drama!”  I overheard this pearl of wisdom on the street the other day. If I hadn’t been racing to a meeting, I might have stopped to engage with the two “gentlemen” who were pontificating about women on a busy street corner in Manhattan. Perhaps it’s just as well that I was in a rush. After all, how do you begin to address a hopeless generalization like “women love drama”? Somehow I doubt that creating my own drama on that corner would have helped the cause of women.

As I walked away, I wondered how often we make generalizations in our lives and thereby avoid the need to analyze closely what’s really going on around us. For example, in law firm knowledge management circles I often hear statements that begin with the words: “THE LAWYERS…” As a lawyer and a knowledge manager, I know that I’m not part of a monolithic indistinguishable mass. In fact, I know lots of quirky people who act in unexpected ways — even though they are lawyers.  Therefore, building a knowledge management system around someone’s personal generalization of an entire group of people makes no sense at all.  However, it does happen.

What’s the antidote?  Start by being honest about your sample size.  How many lawyers have you spoken to or observed with respect to a particular generalization? Then, look outside your experience of your firm to the experience of other firms.  Does your generalization hold up?  If not, is it because you’re working with a truly unique group of lawyers or are you working with a flawed view of lawyers?

If we can’t safely rely on personal generalizations, what other shortcuts can we reliably use in planning, deploying and maintaining KM systems? There are by now many studies (backed by lots of data) regarding human behavior and usability preferences.  Make sure you stay aware of this literature.  And, if you’re working with a good vendor, you should be able to take advantage of their experience of deploying their product in a variety of environments and with a range of users.

At the end of the day, don’t assume that all users are like the handful you actually know.  Failure to follow this rule could lead to a great deal of unwelcome drama that is a whole lot more substantial than the female drama some think they’ve experienced!

[Photo Credit:  Schroedinger’s Cat]

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11 thoughts on “Women Love Drama?

  • May 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm
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    Great observation Mary. I like how attorneys/staff in offices outside the “main” office refer to that office as if it were a person. “Well, Atlanta says that we can't do it that way…” or, “New York told us we can't afford it.”

  • May 13, 2010 at 1:48 pm
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    Thanks for the comment and for tweeting this post, Greg.

    The truth is, we all make generalizations – most likely in an attempt to
    simplify life. We just need to be mindful so that our generalizations don't
    torpedo our ability to understand what's really going on. Then we can
    tackle Atlanta and New York!

    – Mary

  • May 14, 2010 at 12:00 am
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    Love this article, so very very true. I hear the phrase, “lawyers don't work that way” an awful lot. Often times I am hearing it from lawyers. I especially like hearing this phrase when discussing new ideas and plans, because I know in that no one has actually taken the time to ask around, it is simply assumed.

  • May 14, 2010 at 1:42 am
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    Thanks so much, Sean. I was initially taken aback to read in your comment
    that lawyers make generalizations about lawyers. But, on further reflection,
    I really shouldn't be surprised. It's an all too human failing.

    – Mary

  • May 14, 2010 at 9:40 am
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    Good thoughts, as always, Mary. The other side of this equation that I thought of immediately was, “And men don't?”

    And for some reason your thinking about sample size and meeting the needs of your customers / clients / colleagues flashed me back to the Malcolmn Gladwell article on ketchup and mustard (food in general). Food companies used to believe that there was ONE preparation that was the ideal and that they should find and make it. What they've discovered is that there are a much wider range of tastes, and now you have ten different Ragu spaghetti sauces to pick from. http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_09_06_a_ketch

    I wonder if our improvement efforts need to be a little more cognizant of the different tastes of the people we work with.

  • May 14, 2010 at 10:39 am
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    Thanks, Jack. You're right that the tendency to drama is in no way limited
    by gender.

    As for the Gladwell piece, I remember when I first read it I found myself
    wondering if these manufacturers longed for the good ole days when one size
    fit all. Put that next to Barry Schwartz's Paradox of Choice and you've got
    to consider at what point there's simply too much choice. As with many
    things, we have to find the balance between meeting specific needs and
    overwhelming our customers with a surfeit of options.

    – Mary

  • May 14, 2010 at 1:40 pm
    Permalink

    Good thoughts, as always, Mary. The other side of this equation that I thought of immediately was, “And men don't?”

    And for some reason your thinking about sample size and meeting the needs of your customers / clients / colleagues flashed me back to the Malcolmn Gladwell article on ketchup and mustard (food in general). Food companies used to believe that there was ONE preparation that was the ideal and that they should find and make it. What they've discovered is that there are a much wider range of tastes, and now you have ten different Ragu spaghetti sauces to pick from. http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_09_06_a_ketch

    I wonder if our improvement efforts need to be a little more cognizant of the different tastes of the people we work with.

  • May 14, 2010 at 2:39 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks, Jack. You're right that the tendency to drama is in no way limited
    by gender.

    As for the Gladwell piece, I remember when I first read it I found myself
    wondering if these manufacturers longed for the good ole days when one size
    fit all. Put that next to Barry Schwartz's Paradox of Choice and you've got
    to consider at what point there's simply too much choice. As with many
    things, we have to find the balance between meeting specific needs and
    overwhelming our customers with a surfeit of options.

    – Mary

  • June 15, 2010 at 11:30 am
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    🙂 Good one! Makes me think about some of the generalizations I might be indulging in! 😉

  • June 15, 2010 at 7:44 pm
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    Thanks, Nimmy. We all need to re-examine our generalizations from time to
    time!

    – Mary

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