Are deeply held convictions your backbone or achilles heel?

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.

Disadvantages

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Improve your decision-making skills: time to get back to the gym!

Something I struggled with for a long time is chronic neck and shoulder pain when working with my computer. For the largest part of my life, I sat behind my computer like the hunchback of Notre Dame.

Well meant ergonomic advice, a standing desk, and using the mouse with my left hand only gave temporary relief.

The only thing that solves the problem structurally is going to the gym.

The problem is that I experienced being in the gym as exciting as watching grass grow. Besides, I always took the words of the apostle Paul “For bodily exercise profiteth little” (1 Tim 4:8) perhaps a little too close to heart. 

If getting back in shape is part of your past summer holiday intentions – here are three things that got me back in the gym earlier this year!

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Why do smart people make wrong decisions?

The most important part of leadership is making decisions. Decisions about products and markets to invest in, people to hire and to promote, IT-systems to select, to continue or terminate projects plagued by setbacks, mergers & acquisitions, etc. These decisions determine the success or failure of organizations, projects and individuals. 

Ever since my graduation in the field of Sociology, I have always been very interested in the topic of decision making in organizations. At university, I loved the lectures of Professor Lawler about concepts like bounded rationality. I also loved reading books on this topic, including ‘Essence of Decision’ (about decision making in the Kennedy administration during the Cuban missile crisis) and Barbara W. Tuchman’s classic ‘March of Folly’.

Do we really need another book on this topic?

Against this background, I was a bit concerned when my friend and former PA Consulting Group colleague Wim van Hennekeler, told me that he was writing a book about decision making. This was mainly due to my concern about whether he could possibly add value to the vast body of work that was already published on this topic.

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