Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
They sound like they know what they’re talking about, don’t they? But what if it’s all nonsense?
Indeed, Malcolm Gladwell, a fascinating purveyor of patterns that may or may not hold the secret to eternal life, believes that there’s one conventional business guru wisdom that’s actually holding you back.
In a recent chat with Wharton psychology professor Adam Grant — himself a bit of a guru — Gladwell takes issue with Grant’s notion that “the more output you produce, the better your shot at stumbling onto greatness.”
It’s a tempting one, this, especially with technology taking over everything we do.
The web is all about immediacy. It allows you to instantly create and disseminate. Tech companies are the proud fools who put products out all the time and see how people respond, in the hope that people are all like engineers.
As the president has proved, you can emit a tweet and, in a few seconds, be a banner on CNN.
The Outliers author believes this idea that you keep tossing something against a wall as fast as you can until something sticks is a pattern of deception.
“In any kind of high-stakes job where the penalty for error is high, you can’t afford to have hares,” he said.
A hare would, indeed, make a terrible soccer goalkeeper and a pretty awful pilot — far too jittery.
For Gladwell, though, this has wider implications.
“In the financial crisis, someone put the comma in the wrong place and ended up paying $20 a share for Lehman and not $2 a share,” he said. “Who was the person who read that document at 2:00 in the morning? The hare.”
Those lawyers who are going places may be going there too quickly? What a curious thought.
But on Wall Street, surely, the traders who control the world are paid to move as fast as they can and the speediest are rewarded. How they lead us to greatness every day.
Grant wasn’t having Gladwell’s embrace of tortoiseology.
“The more expert somebody is at a job, the less you have to rely on slow, system two thinking, the more that your fast, intuitive, visceral heuristics are accurate,” he said. “Shouldn’t you just assume that the experts are going to be the fastest?”
I’m met some very fast experts who made very fast bucks and were full of very slippery nonsense.
Indeed, Gladwell, sticking to his example of lawyers, insisted: “If you want highly conscientious, highly neurotic people, they’re going to be tortoises, by and large.”
He also lauded the talents of slow writers.
“The problem is that the world wants you to be a hare,” he said. “Your publisher says I want it now, you’re under pressure, you have a one-year sabbatical where you try to cram and finish, you’ve got a teaching load, etc.”
Instead, he says, the best writers create a draft, forget it for six months and then come back to it. (Please come back to this article in November. It will be a lot better.)
The break leaves them with a clearer mind on how to improve it.
They talked about education, too. Gladwell said that if you just forget about standardized tests — those speedy shortcuts to selection — there could be a simpler way for a school to choose the right candidates.
“Why not just run the lottery? Say I’m Penn. In order to apply for Penn, you must be in the top 10 percent of your class and do one interesting thing on the side,” he said. After that, just throw their names into a hat.
“I can tell you with 100 percent certainty the freshman class at Penn under those circumstances would be infinitely more interesting than it is now,” he said.
He is, of course, right. Ninety-eight percent of the people I know who went to Penn are utterly insufferable.
How often, in hiring decisions and many other areas, do we choose the person who appears to be “sharp”?
It’s as if speed of thought were the equivalent of brilliance.
In the end, though, greatness is about performance, not speed. It’s about the thing that’s produced, not the velocity with which it was produced.
Apple, indeed, is a classic example of rarely being first, but always somehow finding a more inspired version of someone else’s speedy thinking.
For you, then, not being in such a hurry, finding a slower way to hone your power and realize it in a truly excellent way might make more sense.
Slow down, you move too fast. You’ve got to make your career last. Or, at least, enjoy the sweet smell of real success once.
More Info: www.inc.com