What do the notorious former marketing director of American Apparel, Ryan Holiday, and renowned Dutch reformed theologian Bram van Beek have in common? They both have written a book about the danger of egocentricity.
Blame it on social media – again?
Social media offers endless possibilities to promote ourselves and serve as outlets for our vanity. It enables us to humble brag about our professional achievements on LinkedIn, share evidence of our successful ‘friends & family’ life on Facebook, and demonstrate our cutting-edge lifestyle on Instagram.
However, looking at our current society and world history, it seems we as human beings always have been prone to self-centeredness and self-promotion. Social media therefore merely enables us to express something that is already deeply rooted in us.
In all walks of life, there are people who have deeply held convictions about how the world works, and act accordingly. The business world is no exception.
Examples I encountered during my career were business leaders that held and acted according to the following convictions:
The only way you gain respect by ‘the business’ as a staff department, is by reducing your headcount to the absolute minimum
Partnering with other vendors to deliver an integrated solution for clients is unnecessarily complex and has a negative impact on the margin
Teams perform at their best if the annual bonus of individual members is linked to individual financial targets
Customizing services for individual clients equals to sub-optimization
Strong convictions usually stem from the successes they brought us in the past. They also tend to become stronger over time: every time we successfully act in accordance with one of our convictions, our inclination to use it in similar situations increases.
Strong convictions offer several advantages
Strong convictions help us to make sense of the world around us and to simplify our decision-making processes. They save us time and effort. When we are confronted with an issue on which we have a strong conviction, our mental muscle memory immediately kicks in to prescribe the decision we need to take.
Another advantage of strong convictions is the potential it offers to persuade others. Because we feel strongly about a topic and have an active ‘personal repository’ of evidence (previous cases in which a particular course of action worked for us), we can speak convincingly to others about it.
One of the most inspirational videos I have ever seen is the Apple commercial ‘Think Different’. This video shows footage of several leaders from the worlds of business, arts, politics, sports and science, such as Richard Branson, Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, Mohammed Ali and Mahatma Ghandi. The key message of the commercial is that these people were able to change the world, because they were thinking differently. The suggestion is, of course, that people who purchase Apple products also ‘Think Different’.
The ability to ‘Think different’ is extremely important, but unfortunately not something that comes ‘naturally’ to us as human beings. There are several reasons for this. The most important ones are our ‘Bounded Rationality’, reliance on ‘Heuristics’ and ‘Theory-Induced Blindness’.Continue reading →