Although this video – “How your brain responds to performance rankings” – is about internal staff performance measurement, there are some parallels with the legal industry’s fixation on surveys and rankings, whether it’s the much discussed US News law school rankings, or the myriad of individual attorney “best”, “super” and “band one” lists .
The video summarizes research from the NeuroLeadership Institute, an international research association dedicated to the neuroscience of leadership.
Although I disagree with the view expressed in the video that numerical rankings and rating scales don’t work per se – I think they are inevitable to help us make sense of an information-soaked world – I have often wondered about the psychological impact of rankings on those being ranked, about whether – as the narrator suggests – if you are categorized as a “two”, there is a permanence to that and you will always be a two and always see yourself as a two.
“Numerical labeling generates the same fight or flight response that occurs in the brain when there is a physical threat, priming people for rapid reactions and aggressive movements.”
The report maintains that this response would be suitable for survival if being attacked by a wild animal, but in a modern business setting, doesn’t produce the thoughtful learning needed to improve performance.
“Rankings lead to frustration, less willingness to take risks, and colleagues working against each other.”
My take-away from this video is that a straight numerical ranking, while helpful for consumers or businesses and those seeking to quickly differentiate between lawyers, may not necessarily produce the desired response in the lawyer themselves, or enable the lawyer to improve their service.
Perhaps more nuanced ranking systems are what’s required?
(Richard Tromans, a legal consultant, first shared this video on LinkedIn)