Is Your Chapter Superstitious? [A powerful lesson in causation]

By Taylor Deer

I played hockey for 11 years. Early on in my career I got my first shutout as a goaltender, a proud moment in any goalie’s life. Throughout the game I had the song “Chop Suey” by System of a Down stuck in my head. Every game following that, for multiple seasons, I made sure that I sung that song in my head. A funny thing happened. Every single game I played after that, I got a shutout.

Just kidding! It literally had no impact on how I performed. But it didn’t stop me from listening to that dang song over and over and over.

We’ve all had a superstition at one point in our lives. From not stepping on sidewalk cracks because they would break our mothers backs. To knocking on wood to prevent future mishaps. To not telling anyone your wish after you blow out your birthday candles so that they come true.

Much like my own superstition. Stepping on a crack never broke mother’s back. Knocking on wood does not act as a preventative measure. Telling someone what you wished as you blew out the candles never had an effect on the outcome of that wish.

And yet, somehow, we still feel compelled to take these actions because we believe they have a direct effect on an outcome we want or don’t want.

Now back to the question. Is your chapter superstitious?

Here’s why your recruitment process probably looks the way it does today. Somewhere along the line, one of your members had or saw an unusually great recruitment success within their own chapter or another chapter on campus. They then took a look at what they did during that period and attributed SOMETHING that they believed to be the cause of their success.  Whether it was that they hung an abnormal amount of flyers, or whether it was because they had a brother that year with particularly good BBQ skills, or maybe a sister planned the most amazing decorations for a certain round or recruitment, or whether it was because they had particularly special Rush shirts that year.

The trouble is that those actions, much like crack stepping, candle blowing, or listening to “Chop Suey” may have nothing to with that success.

We can improve our recruitment processes, we just have to question our own organization’s status quo.

Take a look at your recruitment process. Which parts are the REAL cause of success and which are just superstition?

Sometimes it is hard to tell what is really the cause of your recruitment results. But we know from lots of experience, research, and practice that the actual cause of recruitment success is typically about relationships, people, and personal connection. The talismans we often give credit to are rarely consequential in the grand scheme of things. 

You’re smarter than superstition.