We all spend too much time worrying about what other people think. John Carey’s wonderful book “The Unexpected Professor” describes him wandering through his favourite books and poems and describes a life of literature and learning in Oxford. He made even the formidable Milton fun. He talked and wrote in simple English and with a lightness of touch. Carey laments the poverty of insight in most literary criticism.
I’d extend that to management books, to political books to virtually everything. Why do so many of us live in a world of recycled views, a kind of air-conditioned world where many of the interesting bits have been filtered out? Asking “what do you think?” may for many seem a bit dangerous. Because if it happens to be at odds with what your boss thinks then you don’t think it, even if you do (if you see what I mean.)
In his book “Creativity.inc” Ed Catmull (joint founder of Pixar) says they decided early on:
“if we made something we wanted to see , other people would want to see it too.”
The über- creative Steve Jobs (also Chairman of Pixar) put it like this “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Because most people don’t think because they’re scared to, they either agree with what someone else they like says or the group says or their boss says even if it’s daft. Psychological experiments show that in a rigged focus group with a bunch of plants saying line A is longer than line B
__________________________ line A
_____________________________________________ line B
Then the rest of the group, denying the evidence of their eyes, will be cajoled to into agreeing line A is definitely longer.
There was an old story about the management consultant who being allegedly very good at his job was also in consequence very rich. In being asked by a client what the time was he countered oleaginously “what time would you like it to be?”
But the real entrepreneurs, the risk takers who believe they are right and others are wrong, the people who have an idea and focus on making that idea better are the characters I want to spend time with.
I loved the recent report of Lidl who are mounting an assault on the other retailers with exceedingly good low priced claret.
Paul Goldschmidt, owner of Chateau Siaurac , who is supplying a 2007 Réserve de la Baronne at £13.99, said: “Some retailers bargain on quality — but Lidl didn’t."
Lidl didn’t because they know what they think and I bet their expenditure on market research is infinitesimal, if it exists at all, compared to Tesco. Poor Tesco who are listening to their customers giving them what they say they want and being accordingly shafted.
Too few people are spending enough time doing what matters. Deciding what they think, being true to their own values and doing and saying accordingly - clearly, loudly, and proudly.