In today’s post I am going to explain you the Hawthorne Effect. Between 1924 and 1932, a series of experiments were conducted at Hawthorne Works, a Western Electric company factory outside Chicago. The company had commissioned a study to see how lighting within the factory was related to the productivity of its workers.
A group of psychologists and researchers traveled to the factory. They believed that increasing light in company workplaces would also increase worker productivity. They carried out the experiment in question and were able to show that they were correct, that increases in workplace lighting led to increases in productivity. However, one of the researchers was not very convinced of the discovery they had just made. He insisted and persuaded his colleagues to do the study again, but in the opposite direction, that is, decreasing the light instead of increasing it.
Weeks later, they performed the same experiment again by reducing the light in the workplace. After the study was finished, the results were very surprising. Contrary to what most researchers suspected, the decrease in ambient light led to increases in productivity. How could it be that both increasing the light in the workplace and decreasing it led to increases in productivity? What was the point of it all?
After time of analysis and research, the psychologists came to the conclusion that what had increased productivity had not been the light. On the contrary, they were convinced that it had nothing to do with productivity (within, of course, lighting parameters that did not hinder the work to be done). The conclusion was that the causal element of these increases in productivity had been the fact that workers felt observed, felt examined.
The project led by the Australian psychologist Elton Mayo ended up being one of the great references in organizational psychology. Since then, this theory has been known as the Hawthorne Effect. It is a phenomenon very present in social science research that shows that people who are observed, analyzed, measured … have a greater chance of increasing their professional performance than those who are not.
And this discovery is essential, not only in the world of business productivity, management or psychology but in all human fields. People increase performance when they feel observed. Whether in the field of teaching, education, in the family, in sports or in other areas. And it is not enough just to observe or measure. It is essential that the person being observed knows that they are being analyzed. Therefore, in addition to observing, we have to show our families, workers, students … that they are being observed, that they are being measured. And it should not be in a “supervisory” sense, but positively, to make them see that their work is important, that it is valued and measured. As the saying goes “what is not measured does not improve, and what does not improve worsens”.
This learning is very helpful in leadership development. Making our people feel observed will cause increases in their productivity as long as they are developed in a cordial way, making them participate in what is to be measured, how it is going to be done and the results that will be obtained. Because dedicating quality time to our people is the best way to lead effectively, whether in a personal or professional sphere.
This learning for personal development and personal branding is also very interesting. At the individual level we must observe ourselves. We must monitor ourselves and verify our results in the areas that we want to develop. To do this, we must be clear, first of all, what metrics we want to use, what aspects of our performance we want to measure. Second, we have to set targets on these indicators. And then, periodically measure our evolution in these parameters: where we are, where we were and where we want to go and what actions must be taken to achieve it. And above all remember, “you are only going to improve what you are going to measure”.