One of the best books I’ve found over the past year is Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant. As an accused non-conformist, I dove into this book expecting to find validation and reinforcement that my brand of making waves was somehow the “right way.”
I should know better.
What I found instead was a narrative that challenged me in unexpected ways.
Right out of the gate, Grant shatters an assumption (or belief) that I’d long held to be true: that successful entrepreneurs are enthusiastic, burn the bridges risk-takers. As I’ve taken a few swings at building businesses and attempting to raise investment dollars, I’ve been told dozens of times that you have to be “all-in” to succeed at starting and growing a business. Most of the time, this was an unveiled suggestion that I needed to be so leveraged to the business that its success is the only thing that matters in my life. If you watch the shark tank, the sharks commonly espouse this wisdom as well. If you are going to make it, it has to be all or nothing.
Grant says this notion is false. He shares stories and other evidence that, in fact, successful entrepreneurs are much more cautious that we tend to believe. They hedge their bets and use more of an investment management mindset than the high-rolling gambler we assume them to be.
I wish I’d found this advice years ago. Perhaps it could have saved me from my self. But, you can’t replace the learning and growth that comes from taking big gambles and failing–although there may be cheaper and less painful paths to development. But, I digress.
This book was a reminder for me that we need to be relentless about challenging our assumptions. And we need to always remain open to the possibility that many things we hold as truths could later be proven false (or may have been false all along).
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.
One place where we need to be particularly mindful of our beliefs and assumptions is in the field of management and leadership. We live in an era of accelerating change and much of our current management and organizational theory was born of an industrial era where work barely resembles what it looks like today. Much of what we believe about management just doesn’t hold true in today’s world of work.
When we look to solve problems, before defaulting to what you always do, ask these questions?
- Why do I believe that is the right approach/solution?
- How did I come to this belief?
- What would it mean if this belief were wrong?
- What else might I then try?
If you can be honest with yourself or invite someone else to challenge your thinking, you may be surprised by how fragile some of your fundamental assumptions truly are.
What fundamental beliefs or assumptions have you challenged and move past yourself? My list is pretty long (and in some cases embarrassing). A few examples for me:
- People always perform better when they have an individual bonus to chase.
- Dressing up leads to better performance.
- You shouldn’t be friends with people you supervise.
- Recognizing the efforts of average performers is damaging to overall employee performance.
I would love to see what’s on your list.
Happy assumption busting.