Pam & Scott’s Book Pairing on Leading for Game-Changing Decisions
Listen to Episode 118:
Episode 118 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of growth. On the web at BusinessAdvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and right across from me as always, is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi Pam. It’s always a pleasure to join you for another episode of Growth Igniter’s Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper®. If you’re listening for the first time, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves − and their companies − to the next level of growth and success. So Pam, what are we focusing on today?
Pam Harper: What it takes to lead for game changing decisions. In this volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment that we live in, we face a paradox.
Scott Harper: We face lots of paradoxes − that’s right.
Pam Harper: In this particular case it’s a paradox of certainty. On the one hand we know that we need to draw on the knowledge and skills of others more than ever before to innovate and grow.
Scott Harper: Yet, especially under pressure, we often want to be certain; we want to draw on our experience and our instincts. We often assume that we know more than we really do, so we approach decision making believing that we know enough. And this decision making from experience and instinct can be seductively reassuring.
Pam Harper: That’s true…
Scott Harper: When we’re leading for game-changing decisions under new circumstances − and we know that our environment is always changing − making solo decisions in a habitual way doesn’t always serve us the best. It can actually end up costing us more, taking longer, and not giving us the outcomes that we anticipate and we need.
Pam Harper: Well that’s right Scott. And even with technology, this can be an issue. For example, a few years back we were visiting Oklahoma City, and we were looking for a new address. We had the GPS’; we took off from the airport and we were going this way and that way, and GPS was guiding us beautifully. Then we got to our destination…
Scott Harper: I remember this one.
Pam Harper: What did our destination look like? It looked like a field.
Scott Harper: Right. And the GPS said, “You’ve arrived at your destination.” We relied upon this piece of technology − artificial intelligence, really − to say, “This is how we do it.” The problem was we found out after we called the people we were visiting that their house was so new it hadn’t been updated into the GPS database.
Pam Harper: Nothing is perfect, right?
Scott Harper: Yes. When things are changing we constantly have to be reviewing our knowledge. Even if we’re machines.
Pam Harper: That’s right. There are a lot of things that go on in a day-in-and-day-out basis that we overlook. You can say, “Well, something is a very minor change; it’s not going to make a major difference.”
Scott Harper: Right.
Pam Harper: This example, and some others, show that every change makes a difference. When we’re talking about being proactive and making game-changing decisions for growth. We’re entering into that same uncharted territory, and there are a lot of little and big things that can affect the outcomes. The thing is, if we don’t know or consider them, we can’t react to them.
Scott Harper: We have to be willing to accept the fact that always, we don’t know what we don’t know.
Pam Harper: When we can recognize how we’re hardwired to think, and how we’re hardwired to interact, then we can make conscious decisions about how we’re going to respond under new circumstances.
That’s why we’re pairing two books that taken together shed new light on this paradox. One book is a brand new release called The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone, by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach. The other is a book that’s been getting quite a bit of buzz, I would say especially over the last year − it’s called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.
Scott Harper: We’ve found that our book pairings are actually pretty popular with our listeners. Just like pairing wine and cheese, or port and chocolate − one of my favorites − if you consider these two books, on their surface they are different, but they compliment each other very well when considered together.
We will use this pairing to derive new insights that really strengthen how we think about this whole complex issue. In our second segment we’re going to dive more deeply into these two books, and in the third segment, we will draw on our own experiences and the themes of these two books to talk about immediately useful ideas to guide ourselves and our organizations to make even more powerful, game-changing decisions.
Pam Harper: We’re going to take a quick break now, and when we come back, we’ll discuss our take on The Knowledge Illusion and Quiet. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniter’s Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, where we focus on enabling visionary leaders to dramatically increase momentum for game changing results. We’re on the web at BusinessAdvance.com.
Pam Harper: Does this topic resonate with you? Check out related episodes to expand your perspectives and take away immediately useful ideas. Go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, Episode 118, and scroll down to resources.
Scott Harper: And while you’re there, sign up for our weekly alert of upcoming episodes so you’ll always be up to date.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniter’s Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Today Scott and I are pairing two books that can shed new light on leading for game changing decisions in uncharted territory. Scott, the first book we’re going to talk about today is The Knowledge Illusion.
Scott Harper: Right. The whole title is The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone. It’s written by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach, who are professors of cognitive and psychological sciences at Brown University and the University of Colorado. It just came out in April of 2017. Complementing some of our previous conversations, it picks up on the theme of how sometimes how we think can actually lead us astray.
Pam Harper: What was your big takeaway from this book?
Scott Harper: It really can be summed up in the old chestnut that “all of us are smarter than any of us”. Now at first take, that’s pretty obvious.
Pam Harper: Yes it is.
Scott Harper: We’ve said things like that − “We don’t know what we don’t know” and all this stuff.
Pam Harper: The authors even say this is obvious, but only when you think about it.
Scott Harper: Right. The authors acknowledge that, but then they go beyond the obvious and really dig deeply into research about why we, as individuals and as communities and even as societies − why we think the way we do about what we know and don’t know. They write about the advantages and disadvantages of making assumptions about what we know verses what we don’t. In doing this they lead us to insights about how we can make smarter and more powerful decisions about all kinds of things.
Pam Harper: There’s a lot of substance to this book. What did you especially like about it?
Scott Harper: Well actually, my favorite part of the book was the last chapter. For people who really want to cut to the chase, I recommend going to the last chapter first. It helps you wrap your head around the wisdom of the book. They talk right off the bat about the themes of the book, which are ignorance, the illusion of understanding − this idea that we think we know more than we really know, because our real depth of knowledge is out there in other people and in other in artifacts − and they talk about the community of knowledge. This is something that is near and dear to our hearts, and something we talk about a great deal − the idea of of collective wisdom, and the wisdom of our organizations, and of our communities.
Pam Harper: The thing that makes it challenging for everybody is figuring out how to access that web of knowledge we mentioned. I’m talking about in organizations that have any complexity to them, and that would be about any organization over the size of two people.
It’s hard to know whom to go for, and for what. For example, think about how many companies these days are actively partnering with other companies. In order to produce a service or product − we’re talking about game changing here − we might be thinking we have all the information we need, but in fact it’s our partner somewhere else who actually has the information we need.
Scott Harper: Yeah, and not only is there uncertainty about who we need to go to, but even when.
This calls to mind an example that goes way back to when I was in graduate school and I had to drop a course for the summer, because I injured myself and I had to drop the semester.
Pam Harper: Right, I remember that.
Scott Harper: I filled out a drop form, assuming that’s all I had to do, and the university came back at me and said, “No you can’t do it that way. You owe us more money.” I spent two days limping around, but I couldn’t find the right person to help me solve the problem.
Pam Harper: Today you would have had the internet.
Scott Harper: I might have had the internet, but the internet depends on upon somebody putting the information in.
Pam Harper: Like our first segment example.
Scott Harper: Right. The thing is, that after two days, I finally ended up in the basement of the administrative building, talking to the umpteenth person, and she said, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen this before. Done.” Getting to the right person was the key, but it wasn’t easy because I didn’t know the right questions to ask.
Now admittedly that was before the internet was in existence, but even today the thing is we have to recognize first that if we don’t stop and think, “What do I need to know?” and then, “How can I get that?” This applies whether it’s talking to somebody, or going to the internet. And remember, the internet doesn’t always have the answer.
Pam Harper: We saw that.
Scott Harper: You have to have that way of bringing in the right knowledge at the right time, in the right way.
Pam Harper: This book also talks about different approaches that people have to dealing with knowledge.
Scott Harper: Yes; towards the end of the book they talk about two major types of people and how they deal with what the authors call “ignorance” − lack of knowledge. One type of people understand that they don’t know a lot. They’re pretty careful and conscientious about trying to fill in the gaps, and if they can’t they kind of stay in their area of expertise. The other kind of person is more freewheeling and more willing to go out into the great unknown and explore things that they may or may not know they don’t fully understand.
Pam Harper: How would you sum this up, Scott?
Scott Harper: If we recognize and respect the limitations of our own knowledge, and learn how to tap into the vast web of knowledge that surrounds us, that’s where the power lies. That’s what increases our ability to arrive at truly game changing decisions.
Pam Harper: Building on that, we’ve seen over the years that creating the most effective community of knowledge and organizations depends on continuously fostering a culture that enables people with all kinds of personalities, and thinking styles, to contribute their expertise and wisdom in the best possible way.
Scott Harper: Absolutely.
Pam Harper: That takes us to our next book, which is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Susan Cain is a writer whose work on introversion and shyness has appeared in the New York Times, O Magazine, Psychology Today, and others. She’s taught negotiation skills at corporations; she has that special expertise. She also says that she herself is an introvert herself.
Scott Harper: Okay. So what’s the main premise of this book?
Pam Harper: This is a book about introversion from a cultural point of view. It goes to the idea that introversion, which includes the quiet, contemplative, creative traits that she calls “quiet”, are just as valuable to society as extroversion traits, which include the more interactive, social, gregarious tendencies.
Scott Harper: Yet society in general − especially western society − appears to emphasize value of extroversion above introversion. How did we get to this point?
Pam Harper: This is a relatively new value in society. It wasn’t until the rise of the Industrial Revolution and the need for people to come off their farms and to interact with strangers, that the ability to quickly connect and interact became more valuable to individuals and groups. Because now we’re selling ourselves as well as our products, and it’s impacting how we thrive in society.
Scott Harper: Okay, that’s understandable. But Susan Cain makes the point that this over emphasis on extroversion comes at a cost to society as well.
Pam Harper: She makes the case that some of the greatest contributions to society have come from the efforts of introverts, such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, or the invention of the personal computer. And yet from a very early age, because of this extroversion ideal, people are socialized to live into that extroversion behavior even as they may, in fact, be introverts. They grow up not necessarily tapping into their full potential, or the potential of others.
Scott Harper: Right. And this has a cost to society, including business.
Pam Harper: Yes. The cost is that introverts are often overlooked and underestimated in a society that prizes extroversion. This does a disservice to the 1/3 to 1/2 of employees in a given organization that are introverts − whether you recognize them or not.
Scott Harper: What do you mean by that?
Pam Harper: Well keep in mind, appearance isn’t necessarily reality. Somebody may act like an extrovert because they’ve been socialized to do so, but it doesn’t mean that they are extroverts.
Scott Harper: Okay; that has a lot of implications. What about in the workplace?
Pam Harper: It has everything to do with collaboration.
Scott Harper: Right, and we just finished talking about the importance of the community of knowledge in making more powerful decisions, breakthrough decisions. Yeah; collaboration is hugely valued.
Pam Harper: When we’re talking about collaboration, we’re talking about how it’s affected by everything from the design of the office, and whether we’re sitting in private offices, or in group offices, to how we brainstorm to create game changing decisions.
Scott Harper: Bearing this in mind, how can we create an environment that brings out the best of both our introverts as well as our extroverts?
Pam Harper: It’s important to recognize that introverts often need to solve problems alone before sharing ideas. Now, face-to -ace builds trust, but there are group dynamics that contain some unavoidable challenges for creative thinking by introverts. That’s why leaders need to be sensitive to this need to embrace different styles.
For example, I remember a workshop that I did early on in my career − I brought together groups all across the company, and we were collaborating and brainstorming, and doing all kinds of things, to go in a new direction for the company. It was a successful series of workshops. One day, somebody came up to me afterwards and he said, “You know, if I liked workshops, this would be a great workshop.”
At the time I was sort of scratching my head, because he was very positive, and he was contributing. But if I think about it now in this light, I can say, “This was a person was an introvert and he was socialized to extrovert, but it wasn’t easy for him.” The way we were setting it up early on, there was a lot of constant interaction. What I’ve learned over time is that you have to give people chances to work individually so that they can process information. Then they come together and they share in some different ways. Being sensitive to introverts as well as extroverts really does create the most value.
Scott Harper: Right. So these two very different books actually compliment each other very well.
Pam Harper: They do. When we’re leading for game changing decisions and growth, we need each other more than ever. However, we’re all hardwired with different tendencies for how we make decisions and how we work best with others. The more conscious we are of these issues, the easier it is to navigate the paradox of certainty we face as there are twists and turns in the environment.
Scott Harper: Absolutely.
Pam Harper: So we’re going to take another quick break now. When we come back, Scott and I will discuss three immediately actionable ways for applying ideas from these books. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: This is Growth Igniter’s Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated, where we focus on enabling leaders and their companies to increase momentum to accelerate to their next level of growth and success. We’re on the web at BusinessAdvance.com.
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Now, welcome back to Growth Igniter’s Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Today Scott and I have been pairing two books that taken together shed new light on leading for game changing decisions: The Knowledge Illusions: Why We Never Think Alone by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. To find related episodes go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, episode 118, and scroll down to resources.
Scott Harper: Now Pam, this is the part of the podcast where we like to draw on the concepts that we’ve talked about earlier and come up with some actionable ideas for how to put these concepts into practice to benefit ourselves and our companies. What’s a first idea?
Pam Harper: It’s important to be aware of your own personal style, which includes thinking, and how you interact with the world at large.
Scott Harper: Okay; good idea. How do you do that?
Pam Harper: There are a number of assessments that are available, whether it’s DISC, or it’s Myers-Briggs, or some other type of assessment, they’re all designed to get to particular types of information about different personal styles and tendencies.
Scott Harper: What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when somebody is selecting one of these assessments?
Pam Harper: First I would say that it’s important to have a larger purpose in mind. “Why are we doing this? How is this going to benefit individually and as a whole?”
Scott Harper: Taking a strategic approach to this assessment process…
Pam Harper: That’s right. It can be used several ways, for example, I’ve used it with strategy and team building, where it’s important to understand who is on the team, and how we’re going to work together most effectively to get to that larger decision. I’ve also used it as an individual coaching tool for CEOs and senior executives, who are seeking to raise their game as their games are scaling for growth.
Scott Harper: So having a specific purpose for a specific context in mind is really critical for the success of this type of assessment. What are a couple of other things that are important to making assessments work the way you intend them to?
Pam Harper: What’s even more important is to make sure that the assessments are debriefed in a way that the person who is receiving this can understand it, and interpret it, and use it in a way that’s most effective for them. This means whoever is working with this tool has to be thoroughly knowledgeable about it, because there are a lot of nuances that go into interpreting it. And of course, whatever assessment you use needs to be validated for the purpose.
Scott Harper: Why is that?
Pam Harper: This is a very powerful experience for people. They take it very personally. That’s why it has to be accurate and actionable.
Scott Harper: Excellent points.
Pam Harper: Scott, you have the second point, what’s that?
Scott Harper: I do. Tapping into the idea of this community of knowledge, it’s very important for any given situation to identify what it is you’re trying to do, and then think about all the different stakeholders that are essential in bringing knowledge together. This includes people who are affected by and who affect the situation.
Pam Harper: Like a web, actually, as opposed to a line.
Scott Harper: Like a web, absolutely. It’s not a line and it’s not a tree, it really is a web. People should be talking to each other as well as you.
Pam Harper: It’s both inside your organization as well as with your partners or your vendors, or your alliance partners. That’s something that people tend to overlook.
Scott Harper: It is sometimes hard to know who is important. That’s why you have to start with the people you can think of off the top of your head, then you talk to them, and they can think of other people, and that’s how that web develops.
Pam Harper: That’s right. We have a list that we’ll include under resources on the episode page of some of the types of stakeholders that we tend not to think about as often.
Scott Harper: That’s right. And why does this make a difference? Because if you fall under the illusion of understanding and go ahead and do things without considering important stakeholders, you can have unintended consequences.
Pam Harper: Oh yes. For example, back in my corporate days we were going through a simplification of our workflow.
Scott Harper: It makes sense.
Pam Harper: It did, on the surface. We were all told, “Okay, now go back to your offices and do away with all the things that were unnecessary.” Which we were all dancing around going, “Yes,” and I went back to my office, and I said, “I don’t need this approval. I don’t need that signature, that’s a waste.”
I sent it forward, and then people started coming back to me saying, “Wait a moment, that impacts me. That’s going to create complexity for my work.” We were negotiating about what was really important and what wasn’t. It was enlightening to realize how much we all do impact each other.
Scott Harper: The interconnection there is really incredible when you stop to think about it.
Pam Harper: And that was before today where the internet makes us even more connected in more ways.
Scott Harper: Right, there are more and more ways to get work done, not only within the company but with external partners.
Pam Harper: Exactly.
Scott Harper: Okay. Pam, what’s the last piece of actionable, practical advice that we can provide, based on this book pairing?
Pam Harper: When you understand styles − your personal style − and you understand who your stakeholders are in that web of knowledge, then you need to adapt to the particular circumstances that embrace these different styles and situations.
Scott Harper: Absolutely. And to bring this idea to life, I can think of an example of a project that you and I did not that long ago, where we worked with an executive team where everyone agreed on the objectives that they had to accomplish, but things just weren’t happening.
Pam Harper: That’s right.
Scott Harper: The president who brought us in was very confused. He couldn’t understand why things weren’t happening when people said “yes”. We met individually with each of the executives to get their perspectives. We gave them a little homework to think about what is it that needs to be improved here, and then we brought them together, and helped them have a conversations where each of them was able to more fully express their opinions and ideas.
Just as an aside, one of the things that was going on is that you had a very dominant extroverted president in charge of the group, a lot of his executives were introverted. They were not sharing the information until they felt that they were in a safe environment to do that. Once we straightened that out, adapting to the different styles of the individuals, they really were able to accelerate forward and accomplish a lot of the goals that had been stalled.
Pam Harper: Collaboration is critical, and it’s how you collaborate that really makes the difference.
Scott Harper: Absolutely. Pam, what are your final thoughts to wrap up this book pairing?
Pam Harper: To more effectively lead for game changing decisions, we need to admit that we don’t know what we don’t know. We also need to be aware of our own and our stakeholders’ tendencies towards introversion or extroversion, as well as other personality styles and tendencies. In this way we can bring out the best in everyone, share knowledge more effectively, and make the most powerful decisions possible.
Scott Harper: Thanks Pam. And thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniter’s Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To get show notes and resource links for this week’s episode, go to GrowthIgnitersRadio.com, episode 118.
Pam Harper: Until next time this is Pam Harper …
Scott Harper: … and Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success, and leaving you with this question to discuss:
Scott Harper: What can we do differently or better − starting today − to lead for game-changing decisions in our company?