“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” – Alan Alda
As humans, we have a number of needs. Two of our more basic needs are safety and security. We want to be safe, comfortable, feel like no one’s going to attack us, like we’re immune from fear. We spend a lot of time and energy trying to make sure those needs are met. And that’s OK, to a point.
The problem is that too often in our lives we spend so much time on safety and security that we try to eliminate danger or conflict entirely. We surround ourselves with people who think just like we do, who have the same perspective as we do, we do things we’re good at doing that we’ve done for 20 years, we stick to old familiar paths and eventually view anything other than our path as “wrong”.
Unfortunately, too much safety means no growth. No growth as people, and certainly no growth as leaders. One of your primary goals as a leader in your organization should be to find and analyze new ideas. Everything your business does (or could do) should be challenged. Is this the best way? Should this be done at all? Should we try this new thing? How might this new idea improve what we do?
One of the things I’ve discovered in working with our clients is that when management teams are together for years and years with no turnover, people get stale. These clients like to brag about “continuity” and “consistency”, but what they really mean is “no new ideas” and “we don’t challenge each other because it’s safer not to”. Organizations like that really don’t think about what’s going on, or what they could do. They simply decide in advance what they’re going to do (something comfortable) and then mash up the logic or facts to fit that decision.
There’s no magic to finding new ideas, but if I could suggest one thing it would be this: find people and experiences that are outside your normal world and go after them. Think about the people in your organization or personal life. Who really challenges you? Who doesn’t allow you to get complacent, or settle into a safe routine? If the answer is “nobody”, then you need to find some of those people.
I’m not suggesting that having 100% turnover in your business every year is a great idea. But 0% isn’t always great either. And if nobody in that group is challenging you, then go find somebody who does. It could be a friend, a business associate, a coach, whatever. But be intentional about surrounding yourself with people who are not always so safe and secure.
Somehow you have to continually reinvent how you look at the world. Go out and find people who help you see things differently, or even help you see different things. It’s one of the most critical things you can do for your organization – and yourself.