I have always believed that, when solving a problem, it is essential to question the very assumptions upon which our decision making is based. It was with that in mind that I read a New York Times article, by Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield entitled “Secret Ingredient for Success.” The authors tell us about Chris Argyris, “a business theorist at Harvard Business School” who has researched how people and organizations react when confronted with obstacles.
According to his studies, most people and organizations react by considering only “external or technical reasons for obstacles.” He found that what was less common but far more effective was when they questioned everything they were doing including their “methodology, biases and deeply held assumptions.”
The authors of the article are also the authors of “The Art of Doing: How Super Achievers Do What They Do and Do It So Well,” and they find that their research supports Chris Argyris’ findings. Here is how they put it:
The successful people we spoke with — in business, entertainment, sports and the arts — all had similar responses when faced with obstacles: they subjected themselves to fairly merciless self-examination that
prompted reinvention of their goals and the methods by which they endeavored to achieve them.
Why don’t people take this approach; probably because it’s not easy? As they authors put it: “This more psychologically nuanced self-examination requires that we honestly challenge our beliefs and summon the courage to act on that information, which may lead to fresh ways of thinking about our lives and our goals.”
So, if you or your organization are currently confronting obstacles and nothing you do seems to work, try stepping back and questioning the very basis for your current beliefs about your business; It could make a big difference.