The danger of HiPPOs and the need for evidence-based decision

There's a HiPPO in the room that we need to talk about!

Rob Dumbleton 2024-03-06 16:56:53
  • Product
  • Sales
  • Customer Success
  • Marketing

When it comes to business decision-making, there is a certain composed creature that occasionally roams the boardrooms and the corridors of corporate offices – meet the HiPPO. The 'Highest Paid Person’s Opinion' is a phenomenon where the most prominent decisions are influenced by the highest salary-earner in a business organisation - regardless of their expertise in the matter.

The problem with HiPPOs

The root problem with HiPPOs is not their existence; indeed, experience and wisdom often accompany those with the heaviest pay. Rather, the issue lies in the assumption that HiPPOs always know best. This belief can stifle innovation, curtail growth, and limit potential by overlooking diverse perspectives and disregarding important data.

In an era where data analytics and AI-based applications are quickly becoming the lifeblood of decision-making, overreliance on HiPPOs can deter a company from harnessing the full potential of collective intelligence. A decision solely based on a HiPPO's view may lack insight into the customers' ever-evolving needs or miss spotting new trends in the market.

The danger of HiPPO syndrome

The High-Paid Person's Opinion tends to steamroll lower-paid employees' thoughts and ideas – perpetuating a 'groupthink' culture. Ungrounded trust in HiPPOs can demoralise less senior staff, undermining their confidence and rendering their expertise irrelevant.

Additionally, decision-making by HiPPO often lacks accountability. When decisions fail, there is no clear way to learn from the mistake and improve. This lack of feedback loop can cause the business to stagnate and make the same mistakes over time.

Harnessing evidence to tame the HiPPO

While the HiPPO risks are real, there are proven ways to counteract these dangers, ensuring that all voices are heard, and decisions are grounded in data and evidence.

  1. Promoting a Culture of Data: Cultivate an environment where data drives decisions, not the whims of the higher-ups. Invest in data literacy for your team and promote a data-first corporate culture.

  2. Democratising Decision-Making: Ensure that decisions involve diverse perspectives. This stems not just from various levels in the organization but also from different backgrounds, skill sets, and experiences.

  3. Encouraging Decentralization: Shift from a top-down approach to a more inclusive decision-making process and ensure that employees at all levels can contribute ideas and insights.

  4. Encouraging Open Communication: Create safe spaces for staff to voice their perspectives and data-driven insights.

In a business ecosystem where the terrain shifts rapidly, reliance on data, objective analysis, and collective intelligence is vital. Smart companies understand that the antidote to HiPPO's inherent shortcomings is the application of evidence-based decision-making practices, which encourages a culture of diversity, inclusivity, and continuous learning.

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