April 10, 2013
Today’s Wednesday Work Wisdom…
Today I had the honor of seeing my good friend, Ed Gerety, speak to 200 junior high school students. He was amazing.
What I found most interesting was the response from the audience.
I am used to speaking to corporations where the average age is probably 40 – 50. Here the average age was 12 – 13. There is a marked difference between these groups!
When Ed asked the student to do something, 100% participated (well, several of the teachers sat and stared blankly). When he asked them to do something that an adult might think as “silly,” the audience went wild with laughter. When he told moving stories that might generate “crickets” from an adult audience, he received gasps, cheers, and awwwwws from the teenagers. There was an unbelievable energy in the room. Everyone was hungry for Ed’s message.
When did we, as adults, become so jaded? When did we forget how to participate and play in life? When did we decide that “looking good” in front of others was more important than full self-expression? When did we become so arrogant that we know more than everyone else? When did we stop truly learning and living?
I was inspired by these students. I was tempted to call them “kids.” But after spending an hour with them, I realized that they are more adult than many adults.
Today, I encourage you to look at the world through the eyes of a teenager. Play. Laugh. Participate. Clap. Gasp. Show your full range of emotions.
As Ed said during his presentation, tell people you love them. Be thankful, every day, for what you have. Help others. Stand up for yourself.
I’ve attended a lot of seminars and training over the years. But spending 60 minutes with Ed and a couple hundred students was the most valuable education I have received in years.
P.S. I had a similar experience a couple of years ago when working for a large organization. I presented to 400 executives in the morning followed by 200 high school students in the afternoon. The two audiences could not have been more different. I wrote about how to tap into your “inner innovation child” in an American Express OPEN Forum article. You can also read my article “Unleash Your Inner Innovator” (pdf). It appeared in a British Magazine 10 years ago.
April 5, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
Last week I briefly touched upon my perspective on goal setting. While they have been universally considered a magic bullet for success both personally and professionally, goals are not without their downsides.
Interestingly, the way in which you frame your goals can have a significant impact on your relationships.
This, according to the authors of a paper published in the Current Directions in Psychological Science that focused on whether people are open and straightforward when working with others.
The study noted that people who establish goals to improve themselves (“self-improvement goals”), like getting better grades, increasing sales numbers or nailing a perfect “10”, tend to be more cooperative in nature.
Whereas people who set goals that will enable them to perform better than others (“performance goals”) such as becoming Valedictorian or completing a task more quickly than a fellow co-worker, have more of a tendency to be “deceitful and less likely to share information with coworkers. The reason for this is fairly obvious – when you want to outperform others, it doesn’t make sense to be honest about information.”
The study suggests that those with self-improvement goals on the other hand tend to be quite open. “If the ultimate goal is to improve yourself, one way to do it is to be very cooperative with other people…(however) they’re not really altruists, per se. They see the social exchange as a means toward the ends of self-improvement.”
Other research shows that those with self-improvement goals are also more open to hearing different perspectives, while those with performance goals “would rather just say, ‘I’m just right and you are wrong.’”
According to the authors, both types of goal setting can be effective. However, their findings suggest that helping individuals frame their goals to focus on self-improvement instead of performance may foster a better overall team environment.
From my perspective, performance goals can be extremely useful for creating a powerful team when the objective is to be better than external competition.
Regardless, a good balance of goals creates a high-performance environment that also fosters collaboration. The key, as I have discussed before, is to not hyper-focus on the goal to the point where you miss the bigger picture and bigger opportunities.
P.S. For more on my goal-setting perspective, read Goal-Free Living.
April 5, 2013
Here is the transcription for my Monday Morning Movie…
The other day I was at Mohegan Sun, which is a casino about an hour and a half outside of Boston. And while I’m there I love to speak with the gamblers because each of them believe they have a system. They believe they have a method to ensure that they win. And they’re all convinced they’ve won more money than they’ve lost.
Well, of course, this is not true. Casinos are not in the habit of giving money out to people. The house always wins. We know this to be true.
Why do people believe that they win more than they lose? It’s something called confirmation bias, and confirmation bias is the brain’s processing mechanism by which it finds evidence to support its belief structure. Whatever you believe, you will find evidence to support that, and you will subconsciously ignore anything that refutes your belief structure. That’s why we can have such powerful beliefs in spite of evidence to the contrary.
It’s very important for innovators to understand this concept, because every person is convinced they have a billion dollar idea. They’ve got the next big idea that’s going to change the world and make them rich. But what happens is their confirmation bias only allows them to see the evidence that supports their belief that they have a great idea. Their brain doesn’t allow them to see all the evidence that proves it’s actually a bad idea.
There’s a reason why 70 to 90 percent of new innovations fail. It’s not because these aren’t well intentioned, motivated, or excited people. But they’re people who, like all people, have confirmation bias. As a result they will subconsciously ignore the evidence that proves that what they think is a great idea, is in fact not such a good idea.
As innovators, as entrepreneurs, as individuals it’s important to recognize this. Now how do we counterbalance this?
It’s difficult for us to find evidence that refutes a strongly held belief. So what we need to do is, when we’re working on something, partner with a devil’s advocate. Find someone who’ll be the contrary point, somebody whose sole purpose is to find evidence that proves your idea is a bad idea.
Now it may be hard to hear what that person has to say. You will want to reject what they have to say. But if you can open up your mind and be willing to hear the contrary points of view, you may be able to refine your product, service, or idea, and come up with something that’s better. Or you may learn it’s just such a bad idea and you shouldn’t invest the time and money in this one. Find a different one.
This is really important for all organizations (big or small) and individuals.
We know that every gambler doesn’t win more than they lose. And we know that every idea is not a great idea.
The question is, “What are you going to do to make sure that you invest your time, money, and energy in the things that have the highest likelihood of paying off?”
April 1, 2013
Today’s Monday Morning Movie…
It seems like every gambler has a system that ensures they win more than they lose. Of course this can not be the case.
The same is true with innovation. Everyone is convinced they have the next big idea and have all the evidence to support their belief. But most innovations fail.
What is going on here? And what can you do about it?
Today I discuss how the brain is fooling us into believing false beliefs.
March 29, 2013
Today’s Friday Fun Fact…
I have long questioned the practice of goal setting. My book (published in 2006) challenged traditional thinking about goal setting and discusses how we can not only succeed in business (and life) but to do so while achieving great happiness and satisfaction.
Due to its prevalence in business, this goal-free concept is often met with resistance. But apparently there are others that have challenged this conventional wisdom as well.
In a Harvard Business School working paper, the authors of Goals Gone Wild reviewed a number of studies that indicate that the ”beneficial effects of goal setting have been overstated and that systematic harm caused by goal setting has been largely ignored.” They state that the side-effects that goal-setting can have include a “narrow focus that neglects non-goal areas, a rise in unethical behavior, distorted risk preferences, corrosion of organizational culture, and reduced intrinsic motivation. “
One such study is highlighted in a recent New York Times article:
Three groups of participants were asked to create as many words as possible using random letters – similar to the game, Boggle. Two groups were given a specific goal to formulate at least 9 words. One of the two teams was offered a financial incentive for hitting this goal, the other was not. The third group of participants was simply told to do their best.
At the completion, the participants turned in only the answer sheets stating how many words they had created and had disposed of their worksheets. “But the academic researchers running the experiment had a code to match the worksheets with the answer sheets and discovered that both groups that had been given a goal of creating a certain number of words — whether or not money was involved — cheated 8 to 13 percent of the time. Those in the third group rarely did.”
To set goals or not to set goals. The debate continues.