Monday, October 12, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell at Catalyst 09

You can read my quick summary of Catalyst '09 HERE and other thoughts on Catalyst '09 HERE.
But now is the time where I dive into my thoughts and takeaways from the conference. Speaker by speaker, session by session, and moment by moment. On today's post I'm just going to process the talk from Malcolm Gladwell.

I'll 1st say that I was STOKED when I found out Malcolm was speaking at Catalyst this year! First of all because he has PIMP hair as you can see to the right! (Although he doesn't anymore because he got a freaking haircut! I couldn't believe it. If you have hair like this why would you ever get it cut? I bet Brad Lomenick thought about canceling his invite to speak! haha, jk.)

But also because Malcolm is a pimp in the genius division. He is so wicked smart and brilliant when it comes to many things that are so relevant for every organization. I found out about him when I picked up The Tipping Point off the shelf at Borders after it had become a huge business best seller. I read it back in '07 and it blew me away! One day I will post my review and takeaways from that book. It will be like a week of posts. It is pure genius and should be used by all churches and social movements! It's all about HOW to start pandemics and that's what my life's gonna be all about...

Then around 2 years ago I picked up his 2nd book = Blink. Only I was hard up for cash at the time (so much has changed) and I couldn't afford the $20 hardback, so I was snooping through the "Cheap Crap" section at Borders and found my treasure =the Blink complete and unabridged audiobook for only $4! WHOOO! only it is on cassette tape! haha! no problem for me though, I have a tape deck in my Caddy! great book on the making split-second decisions and "the power of thinking without thinking."

And now Malcolm's latest book is of course another big hit! Outliers just released not long ago, so I haven't had the chance to even think about reading it yet. It's an in depth look at what makes organizations successful.

Gladwell talked to us 13,000 leaders at Catalyst about The Mistakes that Experts/Leaders Make.
He originally was talking in the context of our government and the "experts" that enabled this whole economic meltdown, etc...

Throughout his talk he chronicled a story of a Civil War leader named Hooker who at one point said "God Almighty could not keep us from victory tomorrow." haha, I bet Malcolm can tell a big difference when he tells this story in a religious audience because a big "GASP" went up in the Catalyst crowd!
Basically Hooker had the battle won & Robert E. Lee had NO chance, but Hooker's "overconfidence" blinded him! He was a prison to his own overconfidence and it didn't allow him to see several obvious possibilities. He lost. It was a great story to illustrate the point.

He told us about a psychiatric study that I was FASCINATED by! Basically these trainees had a patient and they were trying to diagnose him. The overseers would give the trainees more & more info about the patient each time, but it didn't seem to matter how much information they had in a difficult case. They pretty much make the same decisions no matter how much more info they have!
But these psych trainees would guess how many questions they would get right each eval... and it would increase every single time as they would get more and more info! BUT the actual amount of correct answers stayed the same! *Only their overconfidence grew! Not their effectiveness.

The technical term is "Miscalibration" = when an expert has overconfidence in his decision. You would think you make better decisions the MORE information you have, but these are mistakes because the experts have TOO much information. [and like Hooker it blinds them to other possibilities!]

I wrote down these 4 insights from Gladwell that I definitely thought were important to remember!
1  Usually we worry about  mistakes of incompetence, but that may be less dangerous because because they have no info. [interesting way of looking at it.]

2  The people who are experts make BIG mistakes because of their overconfidence. So, incompetence is irritating but overconfidence is scary.
3  We kind of like people who are overconfident. We want to hear that overconfidence! Not someone who is unsure.
4  **Overconfidence leads me to make assumptions with tiny bits of facts!

In the story, General Hooker doesn’t prepare for both possible eventualities because he’s trapped in his overconfidence! So he can’t even see changes in the world around him! This is exactly what happened in our financial world with our nation's leaders.

*Bottom line #1 for me = Don’t be a prisoner of my overconfidence because the world around me will be changing and I won’t be able to see it!
*Bottom line #2 for me = **In times of crisis we think we need daring & bold from our leaders, but what we need is humility! [I thought this was great coming from Malcolm.]

Then it was really cool when Andy came up and asked Malcolm some questions more specific to how this fits with ministry (like he did with Jim Collins last year).  Like the questions we all wanted to ask sitting out in the seats...

Q1 = "What are the warning signs for leaders who are overconfident?"
A1 = *When a leader stops listening to those around them! That's a sign we always should be looking for in every leader!
Malcolm's definition of humility = "the willingness to listen to others."

[Interestingly, Gladwell pointed out that arrogance is a subset of overconfidence but not always a part of it.]

Q2 = "Can a leader see this [overconfidence] in the mirror and catch themselves?"
A2 = He thinks he can! Props to the leaders with the balls big enough to admit it. [if we're blinded to it though, we must have peeps around us we'll listen to to point it out to us!] Malcolm said the Iraq war is a perfect example of this.

Q3 = "@hat do you say to the leader who resists accountability & team leadership?"
A3 = In business, the crisis moment is when the original leader/entrepreneur can't do it all on his own anymore. The same things don't work anymore. "Leadership has to become more collective past a certain point." 
("What got you here won't get you there." Like what Malcolm talked about in the Tipping Point = a church of 120 is way different than 180 because an organization fundamentally changes above 150 people.) 

Great stuff from Malcolm Gladwell. The guy is a genius. This is good stuff for all of us leaders to chew on. 

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