Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 1

It’s not easy to be counterintuitive and go against old, comfortable patterns of behavior. Yet history teaches us that most breakthrough successes have come from running counter to the prevailing paradigms.

Ever since I grew up on a farm in rural America in the 1960’s I’ve been drawn to the current and emerging best practices around how to do things better. Whether it was finding the optimal way to weed the 30’ x 100’ vegetable garden in the back of our house or unload a season’s worth of Sherwin Williams paint cans as a summer hardware store stock person, I’m a planner and tinkerer looking for that one or two things that can make it better, faster, and more productive. 

Every once in a while, there comes an idea so radical and different that it seems to be the opposite of what should be done.  Yet when you do it… massive success!  Sometimes you stumble on it by accident and find a better route to success.  Other times you feel like taking a risk and it pays off. 

Welcome to the first in a periodic series of posts that present ten powerful, life-changing counterintuitive principles that when put to use, can lead to break-through results.  I’m not guaranteeing success, but they sure worked wonders for me.

 

Of Paradigms, Counter-Intuition, and Breaking-Through

Let’s define a few foundational terms to help us explore these counter-intuitive principles:

  • The word paradigm is from the Greek, meaning pattern or standard method of doing something; an archetype or consensus best practice.
  • Counter-intuition is that which is the opposite of intuition. Intuition is the way something seems or appears to be or is expected to work. 
  • Breaking-through occurs when you suddenly overcome an obstacle or barrier in thinking, buy-in, performance or process were progress had been stalled.

 

What do These Five Men Have in Common?

  • Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft
  • Tris Speaker, Hall of Fame baseball player
  • Harry Warner, Founder of Warner Brothers Films
  • Thomas Watson, former Chairman of IBM
  • Charles W. Duell, former head of the US Patent Office

Spoiler Alert!  If you think you know what these five men have in common, write it down.  I’ll provide the answer in the next installment of the series!

Meanwhile, let’s examine the first two counterintuitive life-changing principles.

 

Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principle #1: You Must Go Slow in Order to Go Fast

We live in a world where we are obsessed with speed – speed dating, speed walking, speed reading.  In order to capture our attention in the movies, you need a thrilling chase scene (speaking of the movies, we’re up to Fast & Furious 10 with no end in sight). 

When you see two lines at the checkout, do you choose the one that’s moving slowly or the express lane where you can check yourself out? 

That’s why we drive on expressways to go faster, use Waze to avoid the congested areas, and test how much over the speed limit we can go and not get pulled over for speeding.

Take what you do for a living.  We let the need for speed direct our thinking whenever we are faced with a new assignment – we think, “What’s the fastest way to get this done?”  When we plan, we often opt for a quick-and-dirty back-of-the-envelope plan versus a detailed requirements assessment and creating a critical path and contingency plans for the areas most likely to go wrong.

Masters of the Go Slow to Go Fast Principle have learned that the only way they can ever successfully sustain speed and quality in executing their job is through intentionally instituting go slow time.   In other words, go slow time is a necessary precursor to go fast time. 

Here are just two examples of the go slow time investment required for a go fast performance capability:

The American Medical Association estimates that before a doctor can perform a lifesaving operation on a patient, he or she spends between 10,000 and 16,000 hours of training in medical school and residency training. All to be able to move at optimal speed to save the patient’s life.

Careers expert Zippia estimates that it takes, on average, more than 10 years of go-slow training and development time in order for an amateur athlete to become a professional athlete, all so he or she can perform in game speed to score a touchdown, hit a homerun, or shoot a game-winning three point shot in crunch time.

What’s your particular area of expertise? How many years of go-slow time did you invest in order to execute the finer points of your job with speed? 

Bottom line: if you want to go fast, you must go slow.

Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principle #2: Limit Hiring People Just Like You

If you have hiring responsibilities, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ve been successful. You put in the hours of go-slow time learning your craft and perfecting it, so you execute at top speed when the situation demands it.

 So, it is natural to look for people who are just like you when you need to add to staff.  You may be successful, but you aren’t perfect.  Like everyone else you have weaknesses and blind spots and it’s almost a certainty that you don’t know all those blind spots. That’s why they are blind spots.  Because if you did know them, wouldn’t you have eliminated them by now, right? 

The problem with hiring people in your own image is that when you do, you institutionalize your weaknesses and blind spots.  Which in turn, will reduce your team’s successes.

Take the game of baseball. What would happen if you were a really good first baseman who is now managing a team.  If you hired people just like you, you’d have a team with only first basemen. People who play first base must be able to stretch out to receive a throw and have an accurate and strong short-distance arm.  This is a strength for a first baseman but would be a weakness for an outfielder who must instead be speedy enough to track down balls and catch them, plus have a strong and accurate long-distance throwing arm. 

You need diversity on the team so that you place the best players at each position.  Hiring people with diverse skills, perspectives, and behaviors means that the team won’t be paralyzed by groupthink

Bottom line: if you want a strong team, hire people whose skills fit the specific role they are to play and stop hiring everyone who is just like you.

 

Bottom Line

I’m not advocating you wholly abandon conventional thinking in favor of replacing everything you do with a counter-intuitive approach.  What I am suggesting is that becoming a slave to conventional thinking will hold you back in life, whenever you should have zigged when convention says, “zag.”

This post is taken from the best practices taught in our internationally acclaimed leadership and sales training programs, Leading Through People™ 30, Counterintuitive Principles to Ignite Passion & Effectiveness.

I love working with people and organizations who want to improve their effectiveness! Here are several outstanding resources that can help you and your organization to go to the next level:

  • Improving your (or your team s) management and leadership skills: Leading Through People . This acclaimed program equips participants in thousands of current and emerging best practices of leadership, hiring, and talent development.
  • Raising your (or your team s) selling and sales management effectiveness: B2B Sales Essentials (among the 30-plus courses we offer are ones on selling with emotional intelligence and storyselling!)
  • Conducting a more effective job search: Get a Better Job Faster

For the past 25 years I’ve worked with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. Thanks to our clients, the company I founded in 1998, Boyer Management Group, was recognized by CEO Monthly Magazine for its “Most Influential CEO Award, 2023” in the executive coaching field.  Our coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time.  Our extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new and developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive.  BMG boasts one of the most extensive sales and sales management curriculums anywhere, with behavioral assessments to help develop talent. I also help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. To find out more, please visit us at www.boyermanagement.com, email us at info@boyermanagement.com, or call us at 215-942-0982. 

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