Here is the thing about conventional wisdom and thinking: it’s usually conventional. This may sound obvious, but in so many situations, we fail to make choices that would move an opportunity forward or make a big impact. Instead we choose the safer option; the one that feels more familiar or has the popular vote.
This point was brought home for me recently as I listened to Brian Halligan speak at a leadership event. Brian is CEO of HubSpot, a title he’s held through the company’s inception, its IPO and $2.5B market cap.
In his discussion, Brian shared his perspectives on decision-making and following the conventional path, which include:
- Conventional wisdom is the conservative path and usually means doing what everyone else is doing.
- Leading companies and people aren’t satisfied with doing what everyone else is doing so they need to think about things in new and different ways.
- For many of his big decisions, Brian sought input from his team, but rarely went with the majority opinion.
- If the choices are black and white, never choose grey. Not only is picking the middle the easy way out, it’ll likely ensure a suboptimal outcome for all.
Great leaders buck conventional wisdom. They take risks, listen for the best ideas from the quietest voice and try to find where they can make that tenfold impact. This is the reason why companies such as Google have formed groups to work on new ideas—even ones that may have a high degree of failure. These are “moonshot” ideas that challenge conventional thinking.
One of the best ways to escape conventional wisdom is to gain perspective from those who think differently from you and to encourage debate. If you surround yourself with everyone who thinks the same way and has the same views, the decisions are likely to be similar. This groupthink is how Volkswagen ended up in a giant emission scandal a few years’ back.
If you want to expand your thinking, travel. Travelling is a wonderful way to gain perspective as are mastermind groups. Both have been invaluable to me and many others that I know, especially in terms of bringing new ideas to the fore and looking at problems and challenges in different ways. Some of my best new ideas have come from travelling outside of my physical and mental comfort zone.
The next time you ask someone for input on a key decision, think about whether they are giving you the answer that they know you want or a new perspective you might really need.
Quote of the Week
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”