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Following instructions

Liverpool Football Club's Director of Research was recently on the Freakonomics podcast, discussing the intricacies of data powered research in football.

While answering a question, he spoke of a trend he observed in his research. Several young players were asked to rate themselves on their skill. Their managers were asked separately to rate these players on their skill. In addition, they were both asked to rate how likely the players were to follow the manager's instructions.

When they analysed the responses, it turned out that there was absolutely no correlation between how the players rated themselves on their skill and how the managers rated them on their skill. That is, the managers didn't think that the players were as skilled as they thought themselves.

However, a more interesting pattern was observed. There was almost a perfect correlation between the manager's rating of the players on their skill and how likely the players were to follow the manager's instructions. The more likely a player was to follow the manager's instructions, the higher the manager rated that player on skill.

Surely these are two distinct attributes, right?

I have always thought so too. However, this is not just true for young football players. This is true in schools and at the work place.

The trick to be perceived as highly skilled and talented then (which results in quicker promotions and better bonuses) is to be perceived as highly likely to follow the manager's instructions.

This doesn't mean blindly follow them. But, nonetheless, follow them. Even when there is a disagreement of opinion. 

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