I’ve always enjoyed digging around data. Sometimes you find unusual correlations. I came across such an anecdote reading Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World:
Not long ago, economist Michael Housman was leading a project to figure out why some customer service agents stayed in their jobs longer than others. Armed with data from over thirty thousand employees who handled calls for banks, airlines, and cell-phone companies, he suspected that their employment histories would contain telltale signs about their commitment. He thought that people with a history of job-hopping would quit sooner, but they didn’t: Employees who had held five jobs in the past five years weren’t any more likely to leave their positions than those who had stayed in the same job for five years.
Hunting for other hints, he noticed that his team had captured information about which internet browser employees had used when they logged in to apply for their jobs. On a whim, he tested whether that choice might be related to quitting. He didn’t “expect to find any correlation, assuming that browser preference was purely a matter of taste. But when he looked at the results, he was stunned: Employees who used Firefox or Chrome to browse the Web remained in their jobs 15 percent longer than those who used Internet Explorer or Safari.Thinking it was a coincidence, Housman ran the same analysis for absences from work. The pattern was the same: Firefox and Chrome users were 19 percent less likely to miss work than Internet Explorer and Safari fans.
Then he looked at performance. His team had assembled nearly three million data points on sales, customer satisfaction, and average call length. The Firefox and Chrome users had significantly higher sales, and their call times were shorter. Their customers were happier, too: After 90 days on the job, the Firefox and Chrome users had customer satisfaction levels that Internet Explorer and Safari users reached only after 120 days at work.
—Adam Grant, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
What are you to make of this? One possible explanation would be that the IE users weren’t as technically proficient. Upon further study, that hypothesis didn’t prove true. Housman eventually concluded the differentiating factor was a user’s willingness to reject the default. The Firefox and Chrome users put in extra effort to do something different,. Their browser use didn’t make them better workers. It merely indicated their drive to make a change for the better.