I try to write things in this blog that get us thinking outside of the traditional thinking and skills covered or discussed in most organizational leadership development training. Hopefully this post will succeed – because that is exactly the point I am trying to make.
Let’s start at the beginning. Leaders exist to move people and organizations towards a different, more desirable future. In the pursuit of that goal it is easy for us to fall into the trap of conventional wisdom.
You know what I mean – people caution against being rash, they say that “No one is doing it that way,” or proclaim, “The way to do it is this way…”. From this well intended camp comes Best practices, benchmarking and knowledge sharing.
Of these things are well intentioned and are helpful. And yet, conventional wisdom, is, well, conventional. Let me attempt to make my point with some examples.
I spent time with a number of employees from American Honda Motors Company this week, and one of them mentioned how glad their dealers are that the company hadn’t listened to them several years ago – when the dealers clamored for a pickup and bigger engines. In the current environment, those vehicles would have been the ones sitting on the lots. Honda didn’t go with the conventional wisdom.
The dealers weren’t wrong at the time, AND Honda choosing to stay with their plans and principles lead to more success.
Staying in the car business . . .
Conventional wisdom, and urban legend tells us that the horse buggy and carriage makers went out of business because they didn’t start making cars. While many, surely did, there HAVE been makers of horse carriages ever since, and a quick Google Search shows several apparently thriving businesses making all types of horse drawn carriages, buggies and more.
Many couldn’t keep making carriages AND, some have been successful doing that since the days of the Model T.
Guy Kawasaki recently wrote a blog post about taking a contrarion, versus a conventional view of how to use Facebook. Conventional wisdom for new job seekers is to “be careful what you put on your Facebook profile because recruiters may look at it”. Kawasaki says, rather than hiding your profile, USE your social networking tools as a positive way to differentiate yourself.
You need to be aware and cautious, AND you can make those same tools work for you in your job seeking process.
Garth Brooks sang a song that gets at the heart of this issue. Whenever I listen to Against the Grain, it inspires and reminds me of this important principle. Here’s the third verse:
Well, there’s more folks than a few
Who share my point of view
But they’re worried
If they’re gonna sink or swim
They’d like to buck the system
But the deck is stacked against ’em
And they’re a little scared
To go out on a limb
But if you’re gonna make a difference,
if you’re gonna leave your mark.
You can’t follow like a bunch of sheep
You got to listen to your heart
Go bustin’ in like old John Wayne
Sometimes you got to go against the grain
(bold emphasis mine). Full lyrics here
Stated another way – when you go where no one else is, there is much less competition.
The best leaders know that they need to understand conventional wisdom and that sometimes they will find more success going “against the grain.”
Consider this your leadership thought to ponder today. Are you locked into to conventional thinking, or are you locked into a vision of a desired future? Are you willing to try and do whatever it takes to help take your organization to that destination, regardless of what others think, say, or do?