Real learning is a part of the work, not apart from it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Success is Found at a Safe Distance

Shortly after being hired at a previous employer I was introduced to a mid-level manager who candidly said these words.

"Welcome aboard! Now that you're here, you're an idiot"

Of course he was being tongue-n-cheek and didn't mean it personally but there was something to this that always stuck with me. During the courting process your experiences and ideas are typically met with enthusiasm and delight. But the moment you're hired, and in the fold, those same senior people look skeptical at your thoughts and efforts. They question the ideas you bring. What happened?! The honeymoon seems to end so quick.

One explanation may be found in a recent study. It was discovered that where an idea comes from may influence whether it's viewed as creative.  According to the report and story from NPR "Why We Miss Creative Ideas That Are Right Under Our Noses" it appears the closer an idea is, the more one can see the details and the risk. Therefore the closer a person is in the organization the easier their ideas can be scrutinized and shot down. Outsider's, being more unknown, ideas are more abstract due to the distance and therefore get rejected less as they are more abstract.

Another explanation may be in how people change as they become employees.

One can place the importance of having a job above their convictions. Fitting in, advancing, playing the game. They want to make the new relationship work and in so doing, overtime...

  • Present numerous options even though we know the first one was right. 
  • Invite too much opinion and compromise. 
  • Wait for approval often from those who know less, maybe even those who hired us to make the decisions.
  • React to healthy questioning as rejection rather than opportunity.
Present, invite, wait, and react. How quickly one becomes the indecisive, self-doubting, over-thinking idiot. An easy target for ongoing idea skepticism.
So how can one maintain their more "wild" nature AND advance their causes? 

Maybe it's a mental/behavior shift. 

Take a cue from those who remain outside the confines of the organization.  A successful consultant is a good place to start. They are not entrenched in the culture, they aren't mired in politics. They confidentially present the solution and stand by it, for ultimately they believe it and their career is on the line, not just this job. 

The entrepreneur is another example. Passionate and energetic, entrepreneurs breathe their work. They approach problems thinking what can be, not always starting with what is. They accept failure as part of success and press on.

Each has seen failure and frustration of course but they rise again and again, choosing their destiny. The idiot does not. 

If you're floundering with your efforts on the inside, maybe the experience you're having is a result of the proximal relationships you have. And possibly these have developed as a result of what you have failed to remain.

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