January 27, 2013

Unboxed: find the reluctant geniuses in your midst

“People who believe in the power of talent tend not to fulfill their potential because they’re so concerned with looking smart and not making mistakes. But people who believe that talent can be developed are the ones who really push, stretch, confront their own mistakes and learn from them.” – Carol Dweck (Stanford Psychology professor, whose research is readable and useful).

In helping a client I love select their next innovation class from a vast pool of talented employees; I realised how ingrained our reflexes are in selecting our leaders from the extrovert camp. As an introvert, I’m always delighted to weight the scales gently toward the lesser-noticed gems within organisations. Through the years of executive education, we’ve had students ranging from board members, senior leadership, all through the ranks. But by far, some of our best students by application of learning, have been the quiet, unusual ones without obvious prominence.

Refresh your filters here.

not so obvious - thanks Kathy Sierra

When the glib win, we all lose. – a Kathy Sierra classic
(Click through, read the piece. Seriously, go.)


Growth vs Fixed Mindsets (how to spot the difference)


Fixed mindset: Look clever at all costs. (“The main thing I want when I do my school work is to show how good I am at it.”)

Growth mindset: Learn, learn, learn. (“It is much more important for me to learn things in my classes than it is to get the best grades.”)


Fixed mindset: It should come naturally. (“To tell you the truth, when I work hard at my school work it makes me fee like I’m not very smart.”)

Growth mindset: Work hard, effort is key. (“The harder you work at something, the better you’ll be at it.”)


Fixed mindset: Hide your mistakes and conceal your deficiencies. (After a disappointing exam score, “I’d spend less time on this subject from now on. I’d try not to take this subject ever again, and I would try to cheat on the next test.”)

Growth mindset: Capitalize on your mistakes and confront your deficiencies. (After a disappointing exam score, “I’d work harder in this class and spend more time studying for the tests.”)

[Extracted from (check out his new book, To Sell is Human while you’re there, fresh thinking on a topic generally horrifying to introverts. We have the edge there too, who knew?)]

There are all manner of cognitive biases that skew our decisions. To err is human, but installing a robust filter is a good safety net to avoid too many slips. Far better to heed the detours around potholes of those who walked in mapless and hapless before you.

I think you should profit from the mistakes of others. You don’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” — Lowell Ferguson (or Eleanor Roosevelt)

You may not be in a position to have to decide who to send on expensive learning journeys, but it may prove handy in how we see ourselves as pioneers and leaders, if you’re not one of the usual shiny suspects.

8 great traits that produce innovative (and resourceful) learners/leaders
(note: this is not a manager development list – different strengths matter there)

  1. Growth not Fixed Mindset (the latter often being the smart, opinionated, talented ones that win – see why it’s easy to choose them by instinct?)
  2. Personal courage counts (not in a grand heroic fashion, but someone who will dare to defy the crowd-consensus)
  3. Determination, the people who keep trying different approaches until they crack the puzzle
  4. Cool to look a bit daft initially (learning new stuff = not elegant. Ditto for suggesting new ideas that others think are foolish)
  5. Helps others win! BIG sign
  6. Energetic
  7. oddly. Neurotic (not the super-anxious, but some of the best creative and/or analytical ones have at least a mild case of the fidgets)
  8. Humour (not stand-up comedians, but the people with a good sense of humour. Often a sign of some higher level observational thinking. Handy).

PS. If you over-analyse your decisions too. Kvetch over the what-if’s. And find you still make an embarrassing number of mis-calls (welcome human). Take heart and pre-order the sensible, yet amusing Heath brother’s new book, Decisive. (Snippets from Chapter 1)

An American Bar Association survey found that 44% of lawyers would recommend that a young person not pursue a career in law. A study of 20,000 executive searches found that 40 percent of senior-level hires “are pushed out, fail or quit within 18 months.”… 60% of doctors had considered getting out of medicine because of low morale.


Disturbing, but also strangely comforting somehow.

January 27, 2013