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  • Writer's pictureJayaram Krishnan

LDE is a killer secret for long term success and growth

The secret method for long term growth and success presented in this article is hardly noticed, talked about or written about. Yet, it is widely pervasive and easy to observe in pretty much every field of human endeavor, especially the more competitive ones (so, in fact, it is no secret at all)!

We have named this method LDE, which stands for Lowest Denominator Elevation. As the name suggests, LDE is a method to improve on our WORST performance and not on our average or best performance. Why is this important and useful?

Think about the best performers over a long term (say years, decades, even centuries) in any area: nations which have progressed socially and economically or rebuilt themselves after disasters; armies which have consistently won battles, wars and campaigns; sports teams which have dominated their sport over multiple seasons and years; corporate organizations which have performed with excellence, (and perhaps also been recognized for the same by the stock market); even individuals you may know or know about, who have been consistently successful in various areas.

If you go into the detailed history of the above winners, you may notice that their best performances are comparable with the best of many other competitors of theirs. However, their worst performances are probably much better than the worst performances of other competitors. A country is rich not because it has the richest or most billionaires, but because its poorest people are better off than the poorest of other countries. A sports team is probably the greatest over time because even at their worst, they were difficult to beat, or went down fighting until the final whistle.

To summarize, any good team can produce excellent results once in a way. But the consistently best ones not only reach excellence more often but (and this latter point is the one that is instructive for us) their worst is significantly better than the worst of the rest. In other words, the LDE of the consistently best competitors in any area is high, i.e. their lowest denominator (worst performance or status over a time distribution) is elevated (higher), compared to their peers.

Now, here’s a critical hypothesis of this entire article: we suggest that LDE is not only a consequence or result of excellent performance… it is also a causal input for achieving excellent performance in the long term.

By this we mean that if our performance is dipping at a particular time to low levels because of lack of form, unexpected headwinds, personnel attrition, fatigue or any other negative cause; then, we must make specific efforts towards LDE improvement, i.e. raise our performance so that a failure is vastly reduce in its negative impact and intensity.

Anecdotally, we may observe that there is often a behavioral difference between consistent winners and average performers – while as discussed, both can produce excellent results occasionally (the winners more often than the average), it is the average performer who may abandon a “lost cause battle” as it is anyway doomed for failure, while the consistent winner continues to fight until the end of the battle. Over time, this behavioral difference produces a vast data set of more favorable results for consistent winners, which not only differentiate them in terms of perceived quality, but also push their best performances (now, we are NOT saying worst performances) to higher levels and with higher frequency. In the domains of governance, business management and organizational or institutional administration, the performance in a “lost cause” could be not to “go down fighting” in a literal sense, but a planned and orderly closure of a bad situation to optimally satisfy all stakeholder needs in the best way possible under the circumstances eg. A national response to a disaster situation is fundamentally addressable by LDE.

Hence, we suggest here that improving LDE should become a conscious and deliberate endeavor. We should actually train for it, simulate it and ensure that we continue to perform to a plan even in “lost causes” or imminent failures.

Pursuing LDE with discipline in lost causes is not as natural or common as we may think. Since we may train for, and simulate success in our minds to prepare ourselves for winning (which is anyway a correct and excellent practice: “think positively!”), we could actually be unprepared, or underprepared, to deal with our worst days. That is why, the litmus test for a leader, a country, a community, a business organization, a sports team, a family, a parent or just any individual, is how they behave and work in difficult times, not just in favorable times.

One important point here is that we are not glorifying failure at all. We are not looking forward to more fail cases, we are not specifically searching for fail cases, and most important, we are not shifting our focus to bad days and imminent failures from expected victories. Therefore, we have to walk a fine line of balance. We must continue to work towards continuous excellence, raising our best and improving on our previous performances – no doubt about that! But while we raise the level of our band of performances upwards by improving on our best, when bad days DO happen, we must have the correct mindset and approach, to improve on our worst, so that the lower boundary of the band of performances also shifts upwards.

Benefits of LDE

  • LDE shall raise our worst performances relative to the worst performances of our peers and competitors, so that our average performance over time goes up. This is more visible in the larger scheme of things, than we may imagine.

  • LDE can vastly improve morale and team spirit, since everyone in the team feels victory and failure in similar ways. LDE is nothing but a strong positive response to an inevitable negative situation, so it raises sentiment in the team and the team’s followers.

  • LDE improves the perceived stature of the team, organization, institution, nation or individual, thus leading to greater support and performance rating in any future competitive situations or alliances.

  • While LDE occurs in bad situations and when failure is imminent, it is a fabulous training opportunity for good situations when victory can be secured.

  • LDE can even help reverse a loss situation to a win! In general, both internal and external expectations may be lower in “a lost cause”, and therefore the pressure to perform is lower. In this situation, a strong LDE performance can create a strong positive impact and convert a loss into an improbable win. There are innumerable examples from professional sports to difficult customer satisfaction situations to show this.

  • Although LDE focuses on improving our worst, it can vastly contribute to improve our best as well. This is because it may actually increase capacity by making us perform under greater load when we are in a difficult situation, so that in favorable situations, things look easier. LDE ingrains greater discipline and effort into all our activities.

HOW to improve LDE

If you’ve reached this far, you hopefully agree that LDE can be a potent tool for long term success and growth – for nations, organizations, institutions, teams and individuals. But how do we develop and improve it? A detailed explanation which could go into the nuances of particular domains is beyond the scope of this short article, but here are a few guidelines:

  • We need to build both Strategic and Tactical preparation for LDE situations. Strategic preparation is long term capacity building, both in terms of physical activity capacity as well as psychological capacity for the players, on how to prepare for situations which seem to break down into “likely loss or disaster”. Tactical preparation is figuring out what could be the chain of command, the person on the field who is in charge, and the drills that need to be performed once the situation has already occurred. For example, in combat situations, if a commanding officer is killed or wounded, immediately, the next senior most officer takes charge, and this is understood and accepted by all personnel.

  • Simulate “what-if” scenarios for disasters and do drills to prepare for the same.

  • Especially in LDE situations, focus on the process and activity to perform it with excellence as a sacred duty, and do not focus on the result (as it says, in no less a text than the Bhagavad Gita: while the true philosophical lesson is obviously beyond the scope of this article and applying it to life is far tougher than as suggested in popular discourse, borrowing it to implement for LDE is not so tough)

  • Respect and reward the traits of resilience, patience and unwavering focus in all players involved. This should promote such behaviors.

  • Remember the axiom, “no victory is permanent, no defeat is final”

  • Benchmark performance against potential and capability in a particular situation, and not only against absolute result

  • Create mantras, affirmations, team signals to reinforce resilience and focus towards performance.

We hope that this article would help you to develop your LDE capability as a leader or as an individual. If you wish to engage further, share your own knowledge and experience, collaborate further or work together, do get in touch!

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1 commentaire

Rajeev Kamadod
Rajeev Kamadod
05 mai 2023


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