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Why Smart People Come up With Dumb Ideas

Why Smart People Come up With Dumb Ideas

In July 2014, a bunch of engineering graduates — very smart people — decided they had identified a pain point that could become a company. The pain point was that, our search results (think Google) and our News Feed (think Facebook) are personalized; but our homes, where we spend the majority of our time, are not. They founded a startup called Lumos and decided to begin building smart Internet-connected switches to make home personalization a thing. People could install them in their home. The switches would learn from people’s behaviors like when they enter or leave home, and what times they use certain appliances, and personalize all the electric appliances in a home.

It seemed like a great idea. If it could, it seemed to be a multi-billion dollar market.

But it eventually died out. It never had the chance to become an Apple, Google, or Facebook.

Lumos failed. Why? The founders were smart, driven guys. They were working 14-hour days for five-six months. How is this possible?

They failed for many reasons including a lack of due diligence, not being the target users of their product, misunderstanding the market and cost structure, and more.

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But one of the biggest problem was that, the ideas weren’t really there. The product-market fit didn’t make sense. Neither did the cost structure. They had doubts but weren’t transparent about them. A sunk cost bias sunk in.[1]

So yes, smart people can come up with bad ideas. And it happens rather consistently.

The main issue is that we generally assume this formula to be true:

Smart = Always Right = Successful?

    This formula creates a situation where it’s difficult to admit having made mistakes or having done something wrong. If we admit a wrong, we’re not smart enough and not successful. No one wants to feel that way.

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    There is also a “sunk cost bias,” which means it’s difficult to let go of things you’ve invested in. This was actually a problem with Lumos. They couldn’t abandon some of their original ideas and suffered as a result.

    Success is easy to see and visually presents itself well: nice car, big house, good salary, flashy clothes, etc. But usually success is preceded by tons and tons of failure.

    James Dyson’s vacuum cleaners is a great example.

      You see the success: his name is on the vacuum, and somewhat synonymous with the vacuum brand. What you don’t see is that it took him 5,126 attempts to finally get the vacuum right. You don’t see the 5,126 failures.

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      What’s the formula we should use? Try this one:

      Truly Smart = Right + Wrong = Successful

        If you understand that failures are progress, and mistakes made can contribute to true success, you will be better off.

        Prove Yourself Wrong

        You think an idea is perfect? It’s not. Doubt yourself. It’s a way to show how much effort you’ve invested in yourself.

        Understand that failures are progress and that mistakes made will contribute to true success. No matter how much you’ve invested in something, you can still challenge it and grow it to something else.

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        One of the most successful stocks of the last 30 years is a little-known company called Balchem, which has grown 107, 099 percent (not a typo) since 1985. One of the hallmarks of Balchem is admitting and embracing failure. Their stock has significantly outperformed Apple, Amazon, and other top companies during that time. Much of it is rooted in understanding that failure will be there (and often) before success will.[2]

        Look Past Your Effort

        You can defeat the sunk cost issue by looking at the effort you’ve put into something as options to review, not obligations.[3]

        For example, if you sink money into anything, view it as in-progress with the parts as options for future use. Don’t necessarily think that you have to go down the original route you were planning. Remember: Twitter was initially designed to be a platform for podcasting. The founders didn’t stick with that, and elements of Twitter (Arab Spring, etc.) have legitimately changed the world. Don’t be beholden to your first idea.

        Admit Being Dumb Is the New Smart

        Smart people are never satisfied with what they know. They want to get out and learn more and experience more. Less-intelligent people learn a little bit and think they’re set. They don’t grow.

        That’s the essential part. Life, and acquiring knowledge, is about growing. That means failing and missing on ideas. That’s the crucial element. Without that, it’s very hard to know whether an idea is truly good or “vetted.”

        Lean into the skid, embrace failure, and see the effort you’ve sunk in as a future option, not a definitive obligation. Your process of arriving at the truly smart idea will only become more refined.

        Reference

        More by this author

        Leon Ho

        Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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        Last Updated on April 8, 2020

        Top 10 Management Skills Any Strong Leader Should Master

        Top 10 Management Skills Any Strong Leader Should Master

        The newspaper headlines, blogs, social media, TV programs are talking about leaders, leadership qualities and people who occupy high positions in government, enterprises and multinational corporations more and more every day.

        We understand that all these high positions are not the main things we should talk about. Leadership is not about the profession, place of a particular person in the hierarchy of the company or government body. It doesn’t make anyone a strong leader.

        Being a strong leader means acquiring management skills which allow you to lead people, to get them to the new achievements and high results. That’s the ticket. It doesn’t matter you are a small company manager or an industry leader the next list of TOP-10 management skills will boost your effectiveness, will make you a strong leader.

        1. Always Inspire the Team

        Remember that your job is not just about hitting goals, enhancing sales or raising profits. We both realize the importance of these indicators for stakeholders and investors.

        Now let’s focus on leading your team. Be rooted in reality and always strive to give your empathy, perspective to all circumstances and situations you encounter.

        Roll up your sleeves and inspire:

        • Be visible among your staff to become their inspiration. There is no chance to be a good leader hiding in your office on a top floor;
        • Join your team to complete ad-hoc projects. Believe us, your participation and contribution is always inspiring;
        • Focus on each person’s strengths, stay enthusiastic with his/her contribution;
        • Be closer to your team;
        • Find the right words. It may be the biggest challenge of the day, the right words in a difficult situation can show that you are a really good leader.

        Need more inspirations? This article can help: The Simplest Ways To Inspire People And Change Their Life

        2. Make a Wise Delegation Your Number One Priority

        It is obvious that you can’t do everything by yourself. Moreover, you shouldn’t do that.

        Your ability to delegate responsibilities shows that you trust your staff, you are sure in their competitiveness.

        It is the best thing that you can do within a team environment. You’re able to kill two birds with one stone: you can reduce your own stress level and make the workplace more friendly showing confidence in workers’ abilities.

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        How to delegate to the right person?

        When you’re thinking about the person who will take some responsibilities consider three factors:

        • The relevance between the skills, experience of the person and the delegated tasks;
        • Working style (is he or she is a team player or independent performer; does he has goals which correspond with the responsibilities which you want to delegate?);
        • The workload of the person (does he/she has time to take new responsibilities or this delegation requires some reshuffling of responsibilities).

        Check out Lifehack’s CEO advice on how to delegate: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

        3. Stay Responsible and Don’t Blame

        Failures always happen. You need to accept this fact and learn how to overcome them. Your job is not to find who is wrong but to take responsibility together with your staff.

        Make your subordinates understand that all of them are accountable for the decisions they make. Remember that you are their leader, you should take a part of the responsibility for their actions.

        Always give them a pat on the back if you see their good results but don’t blame in case of failure. Make an atmosphere in which everyone feels your support and willingness to realize mistakes together and work on their improvement hand by hand.

        Taking personal responsibility for your company and everything that happens in it including failures will motivate your employees to follow you.

        Don’t make excuses, better do this:

        • Take your personal responsibility for the failure;
        • Try to work on the problem to fix it;
        • Think about what you should have done before to prevent this mistake and what to improve in the future.

        4. Encourage Creative Thinking and Innovations

        What is the difference between the follower and the leader? The leader always looks ahead, he is not afraid of innovations, creative approaches to management and business processes.

        Innovative and creative thinking are qualities which make you stand out from the crowd and enable your team to get 200%, not 100% of the result.

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        Don’t forget to encourage your staff because the majority of people perceive innovations painfully and adopt new rules with reluctance. It is all about phycology, a good leader should take it into account.

        Encourage creativity in your team:

        • Become a model for your staff, show your dedication to innovations;
        • Create a supportive atmosphere for creativity in a workplace;
        • Launch events and processes to find and capture creative ideas;
        • Reward fresh ideas, innovations, celebrate success with your team.

        In short, ensure psychological safety in your team, this will encourage more innovative ideas. Learn more about psychological safety here: If You Want an Invincible Team, Make Them Feel Safe

        5. Stay Positive in Any Circumstances

        If you want to be a great leader, you should understand that you need to be positive and motivated despite any circumstances.

        Even in the hardest situation, you should be an example to follow for your staff because you will be who leads the way, so stand firm and show a positive attitude.

        Always keep the lights:

        • Create constantly friendly, open atmosphere in your workplace;
        • Remain positive when things go wrong;
        • Find the ways to keep your team motivated when the situation goes in a bad way.

        Here’re more tips to help you stay positive: 11 Tips for Maintaining Your Positive Attitude

        6. Develop Your Employees

        Along with developing yourself don’t forget that without people around you and their skills the success may be not so bright.

        Thanks to the staff development, not only employees will get new skills which they can use when they write resumes, your team can make tasks easier; besides, it will foster morale.

        Use these tips to develop your staff:

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        • Turn your staff meetings into an instrument of learning;
        • Launch annual education/ training for employees with coaches, experts;
        • Encourage their willingness to develop their skills;
        • Share your own knowledge with your team

        7. Remember Your past Experience When Making a Decision

        Futuristic vision is good. But you can’t go far in business without your experience. You should make all management decisions taking into account not only your skills, statistics, ideas of key stakeholders or innovative approaches.

        You should also consider your past lessons. The right decision made at the right time has a great impact on the masses.

        Look ahead, think hard before making a decision. But after you make it, be firm and stand by it.

        Improve your decision making:

        • Trust your management vision, intuition;
        • Try to connect your present-day challenge with the lessons which you learned in your career before;
        • Better to take notes when you make important decisions, write down the results both positive and negative so that you could get back to them in the future.

        You can also take a look at this guide for making better decisions: Decision Making 101: How To Be a Successful Decision-Maker

        8. Show Your Charisma and Confidence

        As for charisma, everything is simple like wiping the window in the rain. People normally are more likely to follow the person who they like.

        Let’s remember the best leaders. All of them are friendly, close to people, well-spoken, showing care and empathy.

        If you behave in that way, your employees feel that it is not hard to reach you, they will show a willingness to follow you.

        Make confidence your strength.

        Believe in your success and your company’s prosperity, show it everywhere.

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        A great leader exhibits confidence to everyone in any situation. (Take a look at the 5 Key Traits of a Charismatic Leadership.) This will inspire your employees and give them the feeling of confidence in the future, that’s exactly what you need for enhancing their achievements.

        9. Sense of Humor Is Vital to Success

        As a leader, you need to have a sense of humor. Show it when something goes wrong and you need to encourage, relax your employees.

        The ability to laugh things off can make morale up which is so important for staff productivity in difficult situations.

        How the sense of humor can save you in some situations:

        • Humor is able to humanize you. It makes your employees feel that you are all in the same boat, boost camaraderie;
        • It is a key component of a set of empathetic leadership.
        • Humor promotes a sense of shared culture, unity in a workplace.

        10. Consider Failures as Challenges Not as Unrecoverable Mistakes

        Even if you try the hardest in the world failures will happen. Your job is to cope with them and do it with honor.

        If something goes wrong, realize that it has already happened and try to find the best solution.

        How to manage failures:

        • Remain calm, think logically;
        • Don’t stay apart from your team because it may cause the negative morale;
        • Encourage discussion, communication within the team to find the root of the problem, design the best solution.

        The Bottom Line

        It is not easy to become a strong leader, you must have a lot of qualities and experiences. You should look ahead and go beyond the frames in your everyday tasks and responsibilities.

        Moreover, you should be an example of intelligence, wisdom, honesty, commitment and dedication. And that’s why these 10 management skills are so important to master if you want to become a great leader.

        More Leadership And Management Tips

        Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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