Predictability vs. Reliability

What kind of person are you?

Creative? Scientist?

What is the importance of Reliability and Predictability for you?

Let’s start with a little thought experiment:

Who is the most predictable person you know?

Who is the most reliable?

Is that the same person?

I was surprised, working with Rich Litvin, that I found him quite unpredictable. Indeed, on one occasion, the group of coaches and I were notified that the group coaching call was going to be postponed. We did not receive an explanation, and not even a new date. What surprised me even more most is that I was not angry, resentful, nor did I want things to be different. Actually, I felt relieved that the call was postponed, as it would give me more time to work on the actions I had to take since our last call. I was surprised that I had a high level of trust in Rich Litvin. It dawned on me: he was not Predictable, but he was Reliable. I knew we would have the call, no doubt about that. I became aware that I have a higher preference for Reliability than Predictability. In fact, I like unpredictability, as I have a natural affinity for the Mystery and surprises. Like most humans though, I prefer good surprises. I love change.

Another example on unpredictability:

The other day, I realized I was going to be late for a coaching session with a client. I felt very uncomfortable at that prospect, as punctuality is a key value for me, and I ask my clients to show up on time. However, this time, I was the one who was late, and I texted my client that I would be 10 minutes late. She replied: “Perfect!”. At the beginning of our session, she explained to me that she was grateful as this allowed her to complete an important task. The Universe has a rhythm that is quite different than what our minds can conceive and predict and judge as “the right time”.

For instance, I have an important personal goal that I have been holding for some years, and very recently, I just came to the realization that it did not matter when it happened. What matters most is that I take small steps towards this goal, and that I enjoy the journey. These steps are done in a reliable way, although I cannot (and do not want to) predict when my actions will bear fruit. It is like planting the seeds of an unknown tree, and just watching it grow one tiny millimeter at a time (the process can sometimes be so slow that it actually doesn’t seem like it is growing). I notice myself more and more enjoying watching the tree grow, and appreciate each moment of it: watering the seed, the first stem, the little trunk, …

Here is what the journey looks:

This is only 43 days. The lifespan of an avocado tree can be up to 400 years!

This is a great reminder how we as humans tend to be such short-sighted. There is a common joke (specially great for coaches) which says:

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your goals…”

Yes, what do you want to leave in 400 years? What mark would that look like? What legacy do you wish to create? How do you wish to be remembered? What kinds of fruit would you like people to eat, thanks to the trees that you have planted?

Each thought, you have will plant a seed, which will grow into an action, which will reap effects.

Each behavior you have will have an impact that will have consequences far beyond what you can imagine right now.

We talked about highly reliable people, but on the other side of the spectrum, there are also people who are highly predictable, and highly unreliable.

Do you have a friend who shows up late systematically?

Or do you know someone who does not deliver on what they say they will do?

That is predictable, and maybe sometimes, in your mind, after this person did not deliver, you think “I knew it” (and you might even feel a little sad and disappointed that things haven’t changed). My mentor Michel Vallier used to say:

“On ne fait pas d’une mule un cheval de course. ”

“One cannot make a racehorse out of a mule.”

It is critical to be selective about who you surround yourself with. Whether your friends, partner, clients, business partners: be selective or you will pay the price. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Who are the 5 people you spend 80% of your time with?

Are they having a positive impact on you?

In the table below, I created and described four different typologies of people based on predictability and reliability:

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Minions, just like in the movie Despicable Me, are highly unpredictable and highly unreliable. If you delegate a task to them, don’t know if they will mess up or not. The results of their actions is totally random. These people need to be avoided at all cost, unless you are in for a fun ride, and don’t have any expectations (just like when you watch Despicable Me).

Fools are slightly different: they have some predictability, but they are unreliable. You know they can make you laugh, and do crazy and stupid things, but you cannot trust them. You know these people do not have the capacity to deliver at the level of quality which you expect. Avoid having fools in your team, and if you have to hand out a project to a fool, you will need to deploy safeguards and checkpoints.

Creatives are fantastically gifted individuals, as they can dream of impossible things, and envision tremendous projects. Always on the move, they can be hard to follow, as they can change directions as the wind blows and shifts. This makes them highly unpredictable. To learn more about the personality of Creatives, I would recommend the book Originals: How Non-Conformists change the world, by Adam Grant.

Scientists are more predictable and reliable. They tend to value rationality, and safety over innovation. This does not mean that their research does not lead to innovation, but it is usually done by following established rules of how things work. The existence of an empirical scientific method are the basis of the predictable results, following repeatable steps: Observing carefully, applying skepticism of what is observed, formulating hypotheses, test the deductions drawn from these hypotheses and refining the hypothesis based on the findings.

As in any category and typology system, one needs to take them with caution: it is not to say that people don’t change, and that people are in a certain way and not another. However, using typologies as tools can be helpful at some critical moments.

How does that translate into your business?

For those of you who identify more as the Scientist, you might be interested in approaches of developing your business with programs such as Consulting.com. These programs allow you to develop a high-quality high-income service to generate income for what you are excellent at doing. One of their key factors is reliability and predictability. The founder, Sam Ovens, even explains how he can predict the income he will generate to the dollar, and just decide how much he wans to generate. The methods used are highly rationalized, as the use a lot of the scientific vocabulary in the training program indicates.

For me, these approaches are too narrow, and rely too much on Digital Marketing, which I do not personally like. I prefer more people-centered approaches such as described in the Prosperous Coach, which is a great fit for Creatives.

If you are trying to think what would be a best fit for you, here are some key differences:

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