“Power, prestige, and performance make you stubborn, stupid, and resistant to valid evidence.”

Isn't work great? Where past performance can make you more of a d-bag?

If you have worked with anyone that has reached a certain age and level of success, you'll instantly connect with the title. It can be an exercise in frustration when senior level executives and leaders refuse to consider there might be a better way to do things. They can be pretty indignant if you even hint at the possibility that they may want to consider another approach. And god forbid if you actually present evidence that flies in the face of their position.

Leaders will inevitably say something like, "When I was at (insert name of successful/large/noteworthy company), we blew our numbers of the water by (insert justification for current position)."

There are obviously two major problems with these kinds of statements. For starters, our current business environment is not the same as it was even 5 years ago. You, and Roger Martin, can choose to disagree with me than it is not more VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) that in previous eras, but you simply can't ignore the speed and ease of executing a transaction today creates expectations that are difficult to match. Have you ever ordered something from Amazon early one morning and have the item show up at your house before noon!? Thousands have.

Secondly, coming to a conclusion about what worked and what didn't in the past is notoriously difficult to do given normal cognitive biases like Groupthink that "starts with the unstated assumption that we know everything we need to know" about what happened, and the Responsibility bias that "sees us exaggerate our own contributions relative to others' inputs." 

Lastly, presupposing you understand all the variables that were at play with complete clarity and how other market, competitor, customer, economic, legal, environmental and regulatory influences (just to name a few) impacted your performance is highly presumptuous and conceited.

It's exceedingly difficult to manage around our personal and organizational biases. Especially if we don't understand what they are, and keep a vigilant watch for them. It's almost amazing that some organizations can create and sustain high performance at all given how many behavioural challenges we have to combat in our enterprises just to move things forward. 

I think it's time that every organization gets a big hug from Robin Williams' character in Good Will Hunting, while hearing him say...

"It's not your fault"

"It's not your fault"

"It's not your fault"

"It's not your fault"

Then get on to the business of creating better working conditions by accepting our personal biases and creating conditions where they get mitigated. Senior leaders have to lead this charge as well as dig in to do a lot of the work. 

(Note: The title comes from Jeffrey Pfeffer and Bob Sutton's book Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths & Total Nonsense)

Skeptical? Stubborn? Resistant?

We think less when we get more power.

Power makes us stupid.

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