By Christina Westbrook, editor in chief, Perspectives
The past year has made it clear we need to rethink the nature of business. And there’s no one better to explore the topic of evolving our thinking than Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist and a top-rated professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Grant studies how we can find motivation and meaning, and lead more generous and creative lives. In a world that has changed dramatically, rethinking business as usual is no longer a nice-to-have: It’s essential for keeping pace and transforming industries.
“We live in a rapidly changing world,” says Grant, “and that means there’s a risk that people become experts for a world that doesn’t exist anymore.”
“We live in a rapidly changing world, and that means there’s a risk that people become experts for a world that doesn’t exist anymore.”
–Adam Grant, Wharton profession and best-selling author
Jen Saavedra, chief human resources officer at Dell Technologies, chatted with Grant for our Dell Technologies World event. Below, check out highlights from their conversation. If you’d like to watch the entire interview, please register at the Dell Technologies World on-demand experience.
Build a Workforce That’s Ready for What’s Next
Leaders have to be willing to question assumptions that might not make sense anymore. Some of the most critical abilities for the world we are in and where we are headed have to do with rethinking and unlearning—the flexibility to question what you’ve believed to be true and to be okay in the awkwardness of not knowing.
“We need to look for the people who are willing to rethink and unlearn, who have the adaptability, the mental flexibility, the agility to say, ‘You know what, some of the knowledge that I have might be outdated,'” explains Grant.
“We need to look for the people who are willing to rethink and unlearn, who have the adaptability, the mental flexibility, the agility to say, ‘You know what, some of the knowledge that I have might be outdated.'”
We Need More Confidently Humble Leaders
Feeling like you are not ready for the situation you are in—a job, a social event, etc.—is uncomfortable. “Imposter Syndrome” isn’t a new idea and certainly isn’t uncommon, but research has shown that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Rather, it can be fuel to think outside whatever box you are in and bring fresh ideas to a situation.
“Confident humility is being secure enough in your strengths to disclose your weaknesses,” says Grant. He recommends that we not rely on our own biased and flawed views of ourselves, but instead lean into the objective point of view that comes from the people around us who think we’re indeed ready for what we’ve been asked to do.
Put Together Your ‘Challenge Network’
Your challenge network is all around you, comprised of your disagreeable givers. These are the people who are your most thoughtful critics, who dish out tough love because they believe in you enough to tell you the hard truth. They know you can take it and that you’ll use it to become better.
“We want to avoid groupthink, and we want to question our own assumptions and decisions,” says Grant. We need more of these trusted networks in our lives, as opposed to echo chambers that keep us from being flexible and lessen our ability to lead and grow with confident humility. As we work to normalize vulnerability, we have huge potential for growth.
Rethinking Is the New Way to Think
“I worry about this trap that I see so many leaders and teams fall into: escalation of commitment to a losing course of action,” says Grant.
Businesses and leaders should incorporate the space to “think like scientists.” Question the status quo, value humility over pride, and curiosity over conviction. Too often leaders invest in and get excited about a new course of action and, when confronted with less-than-stellar feedback, choose to double down on that investment to confirm or prove that their initial decision was a good one. We need the mental flexibility to stop and rethink what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, to course correct and evolve without fear of failure.
Watch the full interview here and get more insights from Grant on creating an environment where your team is ready to flex and respond to the customers and communities they serve.