Improving work relationships using the lens of “The 9x Effect”

There’s a concept in UX design that I’ve been thinking about a lot in the context of interpersonal work relationships. It’s called “The 9x Effect” and I wrote about it… checks watch… 10 years ago. In short (and heavily simplified), customers value their existing solution/product 3x more than any new “innovation”, and companies overvalue their innovative new product by 3x of what’s currently in the market. So you end up with a 9x mismatch between what companies build and what people believe they need.

There’s another adage that when someone cuts you off in traffic they’re a jerk, but if you cut someone off you had a good reason. We tend to rationalize our own actions while not giving others the benefit of the doubt.

So I’ve been thinking about this in the context of competence at work. I wonder if we sometimes overvalue our own competencies by 3x, and undervalue others’ skills by 3x[1]. And I wonder how that affects the efficiency and health of organizations. We all have a tendency—especially in large organizations—to disagree with strategy, or at the more extreme end of the spectrum, view leadership as “inept” or “clueless”. And I wonder if it’s because of the 9x effect, and if we can all just divide our own opinions by 3 things would get a lot better.

What might happen if as employees we go “well maybe the way I think it should be done is only ⅓ of the answer”. And what if, in turn, leaders go “maybe the way I think things should be done is only a ⅓ of the answer.” Would we be able to come together in the middle and make better decisions together, and in doing so massively improve a company’s culture, autonomy, and efficiency? Sorry, I don’t mean to be a vague question-talker with this post, but I am genuinely curious about this.

A little more critique of ourselves, a little more grace for others… I think I’d like to try that.

  1. Yes, I’m very familiar with the Dunning-Kruger effect. What I’m talking about here is a bit broader and through a different lens.  ↩