This is the 28th in a series of posts in which I share thoughts on a book that has inspired me over the years.
In his book Weird Ideas that Work: 11 ½ Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation. Stanford Professor Robert Sutton shares such counterintuitive ideas as: 1) Hire ‘slow learners’ (of the organizational code); 2) Hire people you (probably) don’t need; 3) Avoid, distract, and bore customers, critics, and anyone who just wants to take about money; and 4) Encourage people to ignore and defy superiors and peers. My favorite is Sutton’s Weird Idea #7:
Decide to do something that will probably fail, then convince yourself and everyone else that success in certain.
Sutton says: “There is overwhelming evidence for the power of positive thinking, that belief can create reality. To increase the chances of success, forget the slim odds. Instead, convince yourself and everyone else that, with determination and persistence, the idea is destined to be a triumph.”
It’s been shown in many fields that expectations have a powerful influence over outcomes – for better or worse. In medicine it’s called the Placebo Effect. In psychology it’s called the Pygmalion Effect. In sociology and business it’s called the Hawthorne Effect.
For better or worse, you tend to get what you expect – from yourself, from other people, from the future.
That is why the aphorism “hope is not a strategy” is so misguided. Without hope, even the most brilliant strategy is doomed to failure.
In the classic book The True Believer (which I mentioned in a previous post) Eric Hoffer wrote that anyone who would change the world, or a corner of the world, must be able to “spark and fan an extravagant hope.”
As a leader (and we are all leaders in some way, regardless of what our name tag says), you should have a strategy for spark and fanning hope.