To me, self-observation, or lack thereof, is a fascinating mystery. So I’d like to round up this series of posts about it with yet another question.
My wife once worked in a company where they often needed to complete work before a deadline. If things didn’t look good, the team would often sit down and work overtime until well after midnight. Suppose you told them “Hold on! In the last two hours we did 50 records, and we have 500 records in total. We won’t be halfway there tomorrow morning, even if we pull an all-nighter. We need to find another solution.” What would happen then? My wife tells me they’d likely ignore you and they’d definitely hate you.
This is similar to my father’s story. His was pretty much the only civil engineering office around that organized and finished projects on time and painlessly. Everyone else was staying overnight before the deadline, and they were refusing to believe that it can be avoided.
Refusing to believe is probably the key phrase here, and something similar was happening in the company my wife was working for. This is pretty much guesswork, but If someone has the identity of a saviour who is going to sacrifice himself to meet the deadline, a better solution could prevent him from exercising what he wants.; and if someone has been pulling all-nighters in a long career, proving to him that there’s another way may evoke feelings of inferiority or failure.
I don’t mean to judge people, but to make a generalization. If my identity is threatened, I might go to great lengths to protect it. If proving something to me might evoke feelings of failure, I might go to great lengths to avoid confronting that proof. Valid or not, these are perfectly normal reasons to engage in behaviour that seems irrational, at least on the surface. And if other people are doing it, it is likely that under certain circumstances I am also doing it.
Which brings me to the question: how can I protect my business from such irrational behaviour of mine?
The answer must be somewhere along the lines of disconnecting personal value from being right—i.e. to convince myself that being wrong about something does not diminish my value as a person. But this is an exercise that lasts a lifetime, and we are now starting to get seriously off-topic, so I think I’ll stop here.