Okay, this book was recommended in several places, both online and in a couple books I had recently read.
I really did not like this book. It was One. Giant. Book. Of. Hindsight. Bias. with elements of pop-psychology thrown in for good measure. It almost felt like Gladwell was ghost writing this book.
Hey, look, this company's company's founders worked really really hard and did something different and they succeeded ENORMOUSLY! They were original!
What about the other million company founders who worked really, really hard and didn't succeed enormously or even slightly? They weren't original? Weren't original enough?
Take Warby Parker, the eyeglasses company. They saw a monopoly and disrupted it. The founders were really really really unsure (according to the book) that the company would do as well as it has. That's great, good reporting. What about the other companies trying to disrupt the eyeglasses monopoly. How did they succeed (well, they aren't in this book, so clearly they didn't) or fail? How were they not original enough?
I understand what Grant is saying, that to be wildly successful you need to do something different and differently than what other people are doing. Sure, I get that. Hooray that all the companies in the book managed to Do Something Differently™ and succeeded. A lot of companies don't make it. A lot of "better" options are really stupid ideas that cannot and should not be monetized. Their ideas, like this book, are fluff.
Did not like this book, do not recommend this book, spend your time reading something else if you're looking for a rah-rah-rah I'm-an-entrepreneur book. Perennial Seller or The $100 Startup are far better than this one.
The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists.
The starting point is curiosity: pondering why the default exists in the first place.
When we become curious about the dissatisfying defaults in our world, we begin to recognize that most of them have social origins: Rules and systems were created by people.
Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.
Child prodigies are hindered by achievement motivation.
The more you value achievement, the more you come to dread failure. Instead of aiming for unique accomplishments, the intense desire to succeed leads us to strive for guaranteed success.
As economist Joseph Schumpeter famously observed, originality is an act of creative destruction. Advocating for new systems often requires demolishing the old way of doing things, and we hold back for fear of rocking the boat.
We view them as self-starters, but their efforts are often fueled and sometimes forced by others.
Having a sense of security in one realm gives us the freedom to be original in another.
When hundreds of historians, psychologists, and political scientists evaluated America’s presidents, they determined that the least effective leaders were those who followed the will of the people and the precedents set by their predecessors.
Originality is not a fixed trait. It is a free choice. Lincoln wasn’t born with an original personality. Taking on controversy wasn’t programmed into his DNA; it was an act of conscious will.
their inner experiences are not any different from our own. They feel the same fear, the same doubt, as the rest of us. What sets them apart is that they take action anyway. They know in their hearts that failing would yield less regret than failing to try.
the biggest barrier to originality is not idea generation—it’s idea selection.
Social scientists have long known that we tend to be overconfident when we evaluate ourselves.
If originals aren’t reliable judges of the quality of their ideas, how do they maximize their odds of creating a masterpiece? They come up with a large number of ideas.
They simply produced a greater volume of work, which gave them more variation and a higher chance of originality.
In every field, even the most eminent creators typically produce a large quantity of work that’s technically sound but considered unremarkable by experts and audiences.
In fact, when it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality.
Many people fail to achieve originality because they generate a few ideas and then obsess about refining them to perfection.
The best way to get better at judging our ideas is to gather feedback. Put a lot of ideas out there and see which ones are praised and adopted by your target audience.
In the face of uncertainty, our first instinct is often to reject novelty, looking for reasons why unfamiliar concepts might fail.
As we gain knowledge about a domain, we become prisoners of our prototypes.
We often speak of the wisdom of crowds, but we need to be careful about which crowds we’re considering.
Instead of attempting to assess our own originality or seeking feedback from managers, we ought to turn more often to our colleagues. They lack the risk-aversion of managers and test audiences; they’re open to seeing the potential in unusual possibilities, which guards against false negatives.
This evidence helps to explain why many performers enjoy the approval of audiences but covet the admiration of their peers.
instead of adopting a managerial mindset for evaluating ideas, they got into a creative mindset by generating ideas themselves. Just spending six minutes developing original ideas made them more open to novelty, improving their ability to see the potential in something unusual.
Once you take on a managerial role, it’s hard to avoid letting an evaluative mindset creep in to cause false negatives.
If we want to increase our odds of betting on the best original ideas, we have to generate our own ideas immediately before we screen others’ suggestions.
“If you’re gonna make connections which are innovative,” Steve Jobs said back in 1982, “you have to not have the same bag of experience as everyone else does.”
Research on highly creative adults shows that they tended to move to new cities much more frequently than their peers in childhood, which gave them exposure to different cultures and values, and encouraged flexibility and adaptability.
In a digital world dominated by invisible bits and bytes, Jobs was enamored with the possibility that the next breakthrough innovation would be in transportation.
As Nobel Prize–winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and decision expert Gary Klein explain, intuitions are only trustworthy when people build up experience making judgments in a predictable environment.
In a rapidly changing world, the lessons of experience can easily point us in the wrong direction. And because the pace of change is accelerating, our environments are becoming ever more unpredictable. This makes intuition less reliable as a source of insight about new ideas and places a growing premium on analysis.
The more successful people have been in the past, the worse they perform when they enter a new environment.
In the words of Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, “Passionate people don’t wear their passion on their sleeves; they have it in their hearts.”
He excelled at creating brilliant solutions to problems identified by others, not in finding the right problems to solve.
If we want to improve our idea selection skills, we shouldn’t look at whether people have been successful. We need to track how they’ve been successful.
“It’s rare that originality comes from insiders,” Neil tells me,
As Randy Komisar puts it, “If I’m hitting .300, I’m a genius. That’s because the future cannot be predicted. The sooner you learn it, the sooner you can be good at it.”
When we judge their greatness, we focus not on their averages, but on their peaks.
Leaders and managers appreciate it when employees take the initiative to offer help, build networks, gather new knowledge, and seek feedback. But there’s one form of initiative that gets penalized: speaking up with suggestions.
When we climb up the moral ladder, it can be rather lonely at the top.
Power involves exercising control or authority over others; status is being respected and admired.
When people sought to exert influence but lacked respect, others perceived them as difficult, coercive, and self-serving. Since they haven’t earned our admiration, we don’t feel they have the right to tell us what to do, and we push back.
When we’re trying to influence others and we discover that they don’t respect us, it fuels a vicious cycle of resentment. In an effort to assert our own authority, we respond by resorting to increasingly disrespectful behaviors.
Status cannot be claimed; it has to be earned or granted.
As iconic filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola observed, “The way to come to power is not always to merely challenge the Establishment, but first make a place in it and then challenge and double-cross the Establishment.”
idiosyncrasy credits—the latitude to deviate from the group’s expectations. Idiosyncrasy credits accrue through respect, not rank: they’re based on contributions. We squash a low-status member who tries to challenge the status quo, but tolerate and sometimes even applaud the originality of a high-status star.
But when you’re pitching a novel idea or speaking up with a suggestion for change, your audience is likely to be skeptical.
The first advantage is that leading with weaknesses disarms the audience. Marketing professors Marian Friestad and Peter Wright find that when we’re aware that someone is trying to persuade us, we naturally raise our mental shields. Rampant confidence is a red flag—a signal that we need to defend ourselves against weapons of influence.
“Unbridled optimism comes across as salesmanship; it seems dishonest somehow, and as a consequence it’s met with skepticism. Everyone is allergic to the feeling, or suspicious of being sold.”
When people only touted the pluses of their ideas, she quickly concluded that “this idea is full of holes; they really haven’t thought it through, and they’ve constructed their slide deck to keep me from figuring it out. When people presented drawbacks or disadvantages, I would become an ally. Instead of selling me, they’ve given me a problem to solve.”
People think an amateur can appreciate art, but it takes a professional to critique it.
This is the second benefit of leading with the limitations of an idea: it makes you look smart.*
The third advantage of being up front about the downsides of your ideas is that it makes you more trustworthy.
A fourth advantage of this approach is that it leaves audiences with a more favorable assessment of the idea itself, due to a bias in how we process information.
Just as presenting negatives can ironically make it more difficult for audiences to think of them, speaking up effectively depends on making the positive features easier to process.
Overall, the evidence suggests that liking continues to increase as people are exposed to an idea between ten and twenty times, with additional exposure still useful for more complex ideas. Interestingly, exposures are more effective when they’re short and mixed in with other ideas, to help maintain the audience’s curiosity. It’s also best to introduce a delay between the presentation of the idea and the evaluation of it, which provides time for it to sink in.
Building on a classic book by economist Albert Hirschman, there are four different options for handling a dissatisfying situation.
decades of research show that you have a choice between exit, voice, persistence, and neglect. Exit means removing yourself from the situation altogether:
Voice involves actively trying to improve the situation:
Persistence is gritting your teeth and bearing it:
Neglect entails staying in the current situation but reducing your effort:
Fundamentally, these choices are based on feelings of control and commitment. Do you believe you can effect change, and do you care enough to try? If you believe you’re stuck with the status quo, you’ll choose neglect when you’re not committed, and persistence when you are. If you do feel you can make a difference, but you aren’t committed to the person, country, or organization, you’ll leave. Only when you believe your actions matter and care deeply will you consider speaking up.
As much as agreeable people may love us, they often hate conflict even more. Their desire to please others and preserve harmony makes them prone to backing down instead of sticking up for us.
It is often the prickly people who are more comfortable taking a stand against others and against convention.
Research shows that when managers have a track record of challenging the status quo, they tend to be more open to new ideas and less threatened by contributions from others. They care more about making the organization better than about defending it as it stands. They’re motivated to advance the organization’s mission, which means they’re not so loyal that they turn a blind eye to its shortcomings.
If you’re perched at the top, you’re expected to be different and therefore have the license to deviate. Likewise, if you’re still at the bottom of a status hierarchy, you have little to lose and everything to gain by being original. But the middle segment of that hierarchy—where the majority of people in an organization are found—is dominated by insecurity. Now that you have a bit of respect, you value your standing in the group and don’t want to jeopardize it. To maintain and then gain status, you play a game of follow-the-leader, conforming to prove your worth as a group member.
The fall from low to lower hardly hurts; the fall from middle to low is devastating.
Middle-status conformity leads us to choose the safety of the tried-and-true over the danger of the original.
security analysts were significantly less likely to issue negative stock ratings when they or the banks that employed them had middle status.
it was more effective to voice ideas upward and downward, and spent less time attempting to make suggestions to middle managers.
But when I looked at the evidence, I was dismayed to discover that even today, speaking while female remains notoriously difficult. Across cultures, there’s a rich body of evidence showing that people continue to hold strong gender-role stereotypes, expecting men to be assertive and women to be communal. When women speak up, they run the risk of violating that gender stereotype, which leads audiences to judge them as aggressive.
Other studies show that male executives who talk more than their peers are rewarded, but female executives who engage in the same behavior are devalued by both men and women.
Extensive research shows that when women speak up on behalf of others, they avoid backlash, because they’re being communal.
For minority-group members, it’s particularly important to earn status before exercising power.
the best way to handle dissatisfaction. In the quest for originality, neglect isn’t an option. Persistence is a temporary route to earning the right to speak up. But in the long run, like neglect, persistence maintains the status quo and falls short of resolving your dissatisfaction. To change the situation, exit and voice are the only viable alternatives.
a major drawback of exit. Although it has the advantage of altering your own circumstances, it doesn’t make them better for anyone else, as it enables the status quo to endure.
in the long run, research shows that the mistakes we regret are not errors of commission, but errors of omission. If we could do things over, most of us would censor ourselves less and express our ideas more.
Employees who procrastinated regularly spent more time engaging in divergent thinking and were rated as significantly more creative by their supervisors. Procrastination didn’t always fuel creativity: if the employees weren’t intrinsically motivated to solve a major problem, stalling just set them behind.
In ancient Egypt, there were two different verbs for procrastination: one denoted laziness; the other meant waiting for the right time.
people have a better memory for incomplete than complete tasks. Once a task is finished, we stop thinking about it. But when it is interrupted and left undone, it stays active in our minds.
Great originals are great procrastinators, but they don’t skip planning altogether. They procrastinate strategically, making gradual progress by testing and refining different possibilities.
The pioneers were first movers: the initial company to develop or sell a product. The settlers were slower to launch, waiting until the pioneers had created a market before entering it.
Surprisingly, the downsides of being the first mover are frequently bigger than the upsides. On balance, studies suggest that pioneers may sometimes capture greater market share, but end up not only with lower chances of survival but lower profits as well.
Being original doesn’t require being first. It just means being different and better.
When originals rush to be pioneers, they’re prone to overstep; that’s the first disadvantage.
roughly three out of every four fail because of premature scaling—making investments that the market isn’t yet ready to support.
Second, there’s reason to believe that the kinds of people who choose to be late movers may be better suited to succeed. Risk seekers are drawn to being first, and they’re prone to making impulsive decisions. Meanwhile, more risk-averse entrepreneurs watch from the sidelines, waiting for the right opportunity and balancing their risk portfolios before entering.
Third, along with being less recklessly ambitious, settlers can improve upon competitors’ technology to make products better. When you’re the first to market, you have to make all the mistakes yourself. Meanwhile, settlers can watch and learn from your errors.
Fourth, whereas pioneers tend to get stuck in their early offerings, settlers can observe market changes and shifting consumer tastes and adjust accordingly.
As physicist Max Planck once observed, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die.”
The time at which we reach our heights of originality, and how long they last, depends on our styles of thinking.
Conceptual innovators formulate a big idea and set out to execute it. Experimental innovators solve problems through trial and error, learning and evolving as they go along. They are at work on a particular problem, but they don’t have a specific solution in mind at the outset. Instead of planning in advance, they figure it out as they go.
According to Galenson, conceptual innovators are sprinters, and experimental innovators are marathoners.
conceptual innovators become less original once they’re entrenched in conventional ways of approaching problems.
Conceptual innovators tend to generate original ideas early but risk copying themselves. The experimental approach takes longer, but proves more renewable: instead of reproducing our past ideas, experiments enable us to continue discovering new ones.
The more experiments you run, the less constrained you become by your ideas from the past. You learn from what you discover in your audience, on the canvas, or in the data.
The key insight is a Goldilocks theory of coalition formation. The originals who start a movement will often be its most radical members, whose ideas and ideals will prove too hot for those who follow their lead. To form alliances with opposing groups, it’s best to temper the cause, cooling it as much as possible. Yet to draw allies into joining the cause itself, what’s needed is a moderately tempered message that is neither too hot nor too cold, but just right.
We assume that common goals bind groups together, but the reality is that they often drive groups apart.
Even if they care about different causes, groups find affinity when they use the same methods of engagement.
Simon Sinek argues that if we want to inspire people, we should start with why. If we communicate the vision behind our ideas, the purpose guiding our products, people will flock to us. This is excellent advice—and when you’re doing something original that challenges the status quo, you have to be careful about how you communicate your why. When people championing moral change explain their why, it runs the risk of clashing with deep-seated convictions. When creative non-conformists explain their why, it may violate common notions of what’s possible.
Shifting the focus from why to how can help people become less radical.
when people with extreme political views were asked to explain the reasons behind their policy preferences, they stuck to their guns. Explaining why gave them a chance to affirm their convictions. But when asked to explain how their preferred policies work, they became more moderate. Considering how led them to confront the gaps in their knowledge and realize that some of their extreme views were impractical.
Steinman leveraged what psychologist Robert Cialdini calls the foot-in-the-door technique, where you lead with a small request to secure an initial commitment before revealing the larger one. By opening with a moderate ask instead of a radical one, Steinman gained allies.
Coalitions often fall apart when people refuse to moderate their radicalism.
Psychologists call them ambivalent relationships. You might know them as frenemies—people who sometimes support you and sometimes undermine you.
Negative relationships are unpleasant, but they’re predictable: if a colleague consistently undermines you, you can keep your distance and expect the worst. But when you’re dealing with an ambivalent relationship, you’re constantly on guard, grappling with questions about when that person can actually be trusted. As Duffy’s team explains, “It takes more emotional energy and coping resources to deal with individuals who are inconsistent.”
psychologist Bert Uchino found that ambivalent relationships are literally unhealthier than negative relationships.
But our best allies aren’t the people who have supported us all along. They’re the ones who started out against us and then came around to our side.
Third, and most important, it is our former adversaries who are the most effective at persuading others to join our movements. They can marshal better arguments on our behalf, because they understand the doubts and misgivings of resisters and fence-sitters. And they’re a more credible source, because they haven’t just been Pollyanna followers or “yes men” all along.
On average, a novel starting point followed by a familiarity infusion led to ideas that were judged as 14 percent more practical, without sacrificing any originality.
Her actions offer two lessons about persuading potential partners to join forces. First, we need to think differently about values. Instead of assuming that others share our principles, or trying to convince them to adopt ours, we ought to present our values as a means of pursuing theirs. It’s hard to change other people’s ideals. It’s much easier to link our agendas to familiar values that people already hold.
transparency isn’t always the best policy. As much as they want to be straightforward with potential partners, originals occasionally need to reframe their ideas to appeal to their audience.
In her dying breath in 1893, Lucy Stone whispered four words to her daughter: “Make the world better.”
According to eminent Stanford professor James March, when many of us make decisions, we follow a logic of consequence: Which course of action will produce the best result? If you’re like Robinson, and you consistently challenge the status quo, you operate differently, using instead a logic of appropriateness: What does a person like me do in a situation like this? Rather than looking outward in an attempt to predict the outcome, you turn inward to your identity. You base the decision on who you are—or who you want to be.
When we use the logic of consequence, we can always find reasons not to take risks. The logic of appropriateness frees us up. We think less about what will guarantee the outcome we want, and act more on a visceral sense of what someone like us ought to do.
Birth order doesn’t determine who you are; it only affects the probability that you’ll develop in a particular way. There are many other contributing factors, both in your biology and your life experience.
Hundreds of studies point to the same conclusion: although firstborns tend to be more dominant, conscientious, and ambitious, laterborns are more open to taking risks and embracing original ideas. Firstborns tend to defend the status quo; laterborns are inclined to challenge it.*
At its core, comedy is an act of rebellion.
To challenge expectations and question core values, comedians must take calculated risks; to do it without offending the audience to the point that they tune out, comedians need creativity. The very choice to become a comedian means abandoning the prospect of a stable, predictable career.
Psychologist Robert Zajonc observed that firstborns grow up in a world of adults, while the more older siblings you have, the more time you spend learning from other children.
When older siblings serve as surrogate parents and role models, you don’t face as many rules or punishments, and you enjoy the security of their protection. You also end up taking risks earlier: instead of emulating the measured, carefully considered choices of adults, you follow the lead of other children.
The larger the family, the more laterborns face lax rules and get away with things that their elder siblings wouldn’t have.
If parents do believe in enforcing a lot of regulations, the way they explain them matters a great deal. New research shows that teenagers defy rules when they’re enforced in a controlling manner, by yelling or threatening punishment. When mothers enforce many rules but offer a clear rationale for why they’re important, teenagers are substantially less likely to break them, because they internalize them.
They outlined their standards of conduct and explained their grounding in a set of principles about right and wrong, referencing values like morality, integrity, respect, curiosity, and perseverance. But “emphasis was placed upon the development of one’s ethical code,” MacKinnon wrote. Above all, the parents who raised highly creative architects granted their children the autonomy to choose their own values.
Reasoning does create a paradox: it leads both to more rule following and more rebelliousness. By explaining moral principles, parents encourage their children to comply voluntarily with rules that align with important values and to question rules that don’t. Good explanations enable children to develop a code of ethics that often coincides with societal expectations; when they don’t square up, children rely on the internal compass of values rather than the external compass of rules.
While the bystanders’ parents focused on enforcing compliance with rules for their own sake, the rescuers’ parents encouraged their children to consider the impact of their actions on others.*
In general, we tend to be overconfident about our own invulnerability to harm.
Robinson wrote. “He said it didn’t take guts to follow the crowd, that courage and intelligence lay in being willing to be different.
When our character is praised, we internalize it as part of our identities. Instead of seeing ourselves as engaging in isolated moral acts, we start to develop a more unified self-concept as a moral person.
children between ages three and six were 22 percent to 29 percent more likely to clean up blocks, toys, and crayons when they were asked to be helpers instead of to help. Even though their character
His team was able to cut cheating in half with the same turn of phrase: instead of “Please don’t cheat,” they changed the appeal to “Please don’t be a cheater.” When you’re urged not to cheat, you can do it and still see an ethical person in the mirror. But when you’re told not to be a cheater, the act casts a shadow; immorality is tied to your identity, making the behavior much less attractive. Cheating is an isolated action that gets evaluated with the logic of consequence: Can I get away with it? Being a cheater evokes a sense of self, triggering the logic of appropriateness: What kind of person am I, and who do I want to be?
When we shift our emphasis from behavior to character, people evaluate choices differently. Instead of asking whether this behavior will achieve the results they want, they take action because it is the right thing to do.
When Winstead went public with her rebellious political views, her father quipped, “I screwed up. I raised you to have an opinion, and I forgot to tell you it was supposed to be mine.”
Remarkably, there are studies showing that when children’s stories emphasize original achievements, the next generation innovates more.
groupthink—the tendency to seek consensus instead of fostering dissent. Groupthink is the enemy of originality; people feel pressured to conform to the dominant, default views instead of championing diversity of thought.
groupthink occurs when people “are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group,” and their “strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.”
When a group becomes that cohesive, it develops a strong culture—people share the same values and norms, and believe in them intensely. And there’s a fine line between having a strong culture and operating like a cult.
They observe that “the benefits of group cohesion” include “enhanced communication,” and members of cohesive groups “are likely to be secure enough in their roles to challenge one another.”
“Minority viewpoints are important, not because they tend to prevail but because they stimulate divergent attention and thought,” finds Berkeley psychologist Charlan Nemeth,
Dissenting opinions are useful even when they’re wrong.
The evidence suggests that social bonds don’t drive groupthink; the culprits are overconfidence and reputational concerns.
While it can be appealing to assign a devil’s advocate, it’s much more powerful to unearth one. When people are designated to dissent, they’re just playing a role. This causes two problems: They don’t argue forcefully or consistently enough for the minority viewpoint, and group members are less likely to take them seriously. “Dissenting for the sake of dissenting is not useful.
But when it is authentic, it stimulates thought; it clarifies and it emboldens.” The secret to success is sincerity, the old saying goes: Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made. In fact, it’s not easy to fake sincerity. For devil’s advocates to be maximally effective, they need to really believe in the position they’re representing—and the group needs to believe that they believe it, too.
“The greatest tragedy of mankind,” Dalio says, “comes from the inability of people to have thoughtful disagreement to find out what’s true.”
Through the process of open-minded debate, Dalio expects employees to reconcile their differences. Instead of reaching consensus because some people are overconfident or others are afraid to speak up, the staff get on the same page by duking it out. In the language of futurist Paul Saffo, the norm is to have “strong opinions, weakly held.”
If employees can get in sync about making sure that everyone speaks up, they don’t need to worry as much about groupthink.
Decisions will be made based on an idea meritocracy, not a status hierarchy or democracy.
Uh huh. Decisions are made by the person screaming loudest in the room, as much as Dalio wants to believe in his vision.
Hofmann found that a culture that focuses too heavily on solutions becomes a culture of advocacy, dampening inquiry. If you’re always expected to have an answer ready, you’ll arrive at meetings with your diagnosis complete, missing out on the chance to learn from a broad range of perspectives.
Getting problems noted is half the battle against groupthink; the other is listening to the right opinions about how to solve them.
Although everyone’s opinions are welcome, they’re not all valued equally. Bridgewater is not a democracy. Voting privileges the majority, when the minority might have a better opinion. “Democratic decision making—one person, one vote—is dumb,” Dalio explains, “because not everybody has the same believability.”*
If you’re about to interact with a few Bridgewater colleagues for the first time, you can see their track records on seventy-seven different dimensions of values, skills, and abilities in the areas of higher-level thinking, practical thinking, maintaining high standards, determination, open-mindedness yet assertiveness, and organization and reliability. During regular review cycles, employees rate one another on different qualities like integrity, courage, living in truth, taking the bull by its horns, not tolerating problems, being willing to touch a nerve, fighting to get in sync, and holding people accountable.
At any time, employees can submit dots, or observations—they assess peers, leaders, or subordinates on the metrics and give short explanations of what they’ve observed.
When you express an opinion, it’s weighted by whether you’ve established yourself as believable on that dimension. Your believability is a probability of being right in the present, and is based on your judgment, reasoning, and behavior in the past. In presenting your views, you’re expected to consider your own believability by telling your audience how confident you are. If you have doubts, and you’re not known as believable in the domain, you shouldn’t have an opinion in the first place; you’re supposed to ask questions so you can learn. If you’re expressing a fierce conviction, you should be forthright about it—but know that your colleagues will probe the quality of your reasoning. Even then, you’re supposed to be assertive and open-minded at the same time.
Karl Weick advises, “Argue like you’re right and listen like you’re wrong.”
Even if your organization doesn’t currently embrace critical upward feedback, holding an open season on leaders might be an effective way to begin changing the culture.
CEO Tom Gerrity asked a consultant to tell him everything he did wrong in front of his entire staff of roughly a hundred employees. By role modeling receptivity to feedback, employees across the company became more willing to challenge him—and one another.
It’s easier to start a relationship with the door open than to pry open a door that’s already been slammed shut.
I’d come to believe that no one had the right to hold a critical opinion without speaking up about it, I explained to Dalio, and since that’s what their culture prizes, I wouldn’t pull any punches. “I’m unoffendable,” he replied, giving me the green light to go ahead.
when organizations fail to prioritize principles, their performance suffers.
few years earlier, Dalio had been asked whether it was his personal dream to have everyone live by the principles. “No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Nooo. Nooo. Absolutely not. No. Just please. No,” he replied emphatically.
“Shapers” are independent thinkers: curious, non-conforming, and rebellious. They practice brutal, nonhierarchical honesty. And they act in the face of risk, because their fear of not succeeding exceeds their fear of failing.
The greatest shapers don’t stop at introducing originality into the world. They create cultures that unleash originality in others.
Although many originals come across as beacons of conviction and confidence on the outside, their inner experiences are peppered with ambivalence and self-doubt.
Choosing to challenge the status quo is an uphill battle, and there are bound to be failures, barriers, and setbacks along the way.
Strategic optimists anticipate the best, staying calm and setting high expectations. Defensive pessimists expect the worst, feeling anxious and imagining all the things that can go wrong.
When self-doubts creep in, defensive pessimists don’t allow themselves to be crippled by fear. They deliberately imagine a disaster scenario to intensify their anxiety and convert it into motivation. Once they’ve considered the worst, they’re driven to avoid it, considering every relevant detail to make sure they don’t crash and burn, which enables them to feel a sense of control.
Their confidence springs not from ignorance or delusions about the difficulties ahead, but from a realistic appraisal and an exhaustive plan. When they don’t feel anxious, they become complacent; when encouraged, they become discouraged from planning.
“The trick is to make fear your friend,” he notes. “Fear forces you to prepare more rigorously and see potential problems more quickly.”
To overcome fear, why does getting excited work better than trying to calm yourself down? Fear is an intense emotion: You can feel your heart pumping and your blood coursing. In that state, trying to relax is like slamming on the brakes when a car is going 80 miles per hour. The vehicle still has momentum. Rather than trying to suppress a strong emotion, it’s easier to convert it into a different emotion—one that’s equally intense, but propels us to step on the gas.
Fear is marked by uncertainty about the future: We’re worried that something bad will happen. But because the event hasn’t occurred yet, there’s also a possibility, however slim, that the outcome will be positive. We can step on the gas by focusing on the reasons to move forward—the sliver of excitement that we feel about breaking loose and singing our song.
When we’re not yet committed to a particular action, thinking like a defensive pessimist can be hazardous. Since we don’t have our hearts set on charging ahead, envisioning a dismal failure will only activate anxiety, triggering the stop system and slamming our brakes. By looking on the bright side, we’ll activate enthusiasm and turn on the go system.
But once we’ve settled on a course of action, when anxieties creep in, it’s better to think like a defensive pessimist and confront them directly. In this case, instead of attempting to turn worries and doubts into positive emotions, we can shift the go system into higher gear by embracing our fear. Since we’ve set our minds to press forward, envisioning the worst-case scenario enables us to harness anxiety as a source of motivation to prepare and succeed.
Originality brings more bumps in the road, yet it leaves us with more happiness and a greater sense of meaning.
Just flying solo with an opinion can make even a committed original fearful enough to conform to the majority.
The easiest way to encourage non-conformity is to introduce a single dissenter.
Merely knowing that you’re not the only resister makes it substantially easier to reject the crowd. Emotional strength can be found even in small numbers.
If you want people to go out on a limb, you need to show them that they’re not alone.
Effective displays of humor are what Popovic calls dilemma actions: choices that put oppressors in a lose-lose situation.
Instead of trying to decelerate the stop system, he uses laughter to rev up the go system. When you have no power, it’s a powerful way to convert strong negative emotions into positive ones.
“Executives underestimate how hard it can be to drive people out of their comfort zones,” Kotter writes. “Without a sense of urgency, people . . . won’t make needed sacrifices. Instead they cling to the status quo and resist.”
Now, we’re willing to do whatever it takes to avoid that loss, even if it means risking an even bigger one.
If you want people to modify their behavior, is it better to highlight the benefits of changing or the costs of not changing?
If they think the behavior is safe, we should emphasize all the good things that will happen if they do it—they’ll want to act immediately to obtain those certain gains. But when people believe a behavior is risky, that approach doesn’t work. They’re already comfortable with the status quo, so the benefits of change aren’t attractive, and the stop system kicks in. Instead, we need to destabilize the status quo and accentuate the bad things that will happen if they don’t change. Taking a risk is more appealing when they’re faced with a guaranteed loss if they don’t. The prospect of a certain loss brings the go system online.
When deliberating about innovation opportunities, the leaders weren’t inclined to take risks. When they considered how their competitors could put them out of business, they realized that it was a risk not to innovate. The urgency of innovation was apparent.
If you want people to take risks, you need first to show what’s wrong with the present. To drive people out of their comfort zones, you have to cultivate dissatisfaction, frustration, or anger at the current state of affairs, making it a guaranteed loss.
The audience was only prepared to be moved by his dream of tomorrow after he had exposed the nightmare of today.
when we’re experiencing doubts on the way toward achieving a goal, whether we ought to look backward or forward depends on our commitment. When our commitment is wavering, the best way to stay on track is to consider the progress we’ve already made. As we recognize what we’ve invested and attained, it seems like a waste to give up, and our confidence and commitment surge.
Once commitment is fortified, instead of glancing in the rearview mirror, it’s better to look forward by highlighting the work left to be done. When we’re determined to reach an objective, it’s the gap between where we are and where we aspire to be that lights a fire under us.
Anger counteracts apathy: We feel that we’ve been wronged, and we’re compelled to fight.
Deep acting dissolves the distinction between your true self and the role you are playing. You are no longer acting, because you are actually experiencing the genuine feelings of the character.
Deep acting turns out to be a more sustainable strategy for managing emotions than surface acting.
One of the fundamental problems with venting is that it focuses attention on the perpetrator of injustice. The more you think about the person who wronged you, the more violently you want to lash out in retaliation. “Anger
Research demonstrates that when we’re angry at others, we aim for retaliation or revenge. But when we’re angry for others, we seek out justice and a better system. We don’t just want to punish; we want to help.
Do diverse experiences really generate originality, or do original people seek out diverse experiences?
Shared tactics only facilitate alliances up to a point. When the overlap in tactics between groups was more than 61 percent, coalitions became less likely. When their methods are pretty much the same, groups simply have less to learn and gain from one another; their efforts are more likely to be redundant.
The representatives shared their perspectives, avoiding blaming each other and justifying their own views, and focusing on analyzing the effects of their interaction on the conflict. After all participants expressed their concerns and understood and acknowledged those posed by everyone else, they embarked on joint problem solving.
As psychologists Andreas Mojzisch and Stefan Schulz-Hardt find, “knowing others’ preferences degrades the quality of group decisions.” Next, instead of discussing alternatives one at a time, they compared and contrasted each of the alternatives. Evidence shows that when groups consider options one at a time, a majority preference can emerge too early. It’s better to rank order the options, because comparing your third and fourth choice might surface information that shifts the entire decision. Psychologist Andrea Hollingshead finds that when groups are instructed to rank order the alternatives, instead of choosing the best alternative, they’re more likely to consider each option, share information about the unpopular ones, and make a good decision.
Research shows that when American presidents’ inaugural addresses feature positive thoughts about the future, employment rates and gross domestic product decline during their terms in office. When presidents are too optimistic, the economy gets worse. Negative thoughts can direct our attention to potential problems, and the absence of those thoughts predicts a failure to take preventative and corrective actions.
Psychologist James Pennebaker has demonstrated that expressing our thoughts and feelings about a stressful or traumatic event is most salutary after we’ve had some time to process the event, when we’re not blinded by anger or consumed by distress.
Do not talk about things immediately after they happened. That will cement the trauma in your psyche. Give yourself time to process the trauma, minimum 6 days, then start talking, writing, sharing, discussing it, otherwise you risk never being able to process it.